The United Kingdom is launching a new communications campaign to raise awareness on counterfeit medication. Authorities are also reporting on seizures and the scope of online trade in counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

The regulatory and supervisory authority for medicines in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), is warning of fake drugs with a targeted communications campaign. The so-called #fakemeds campaign aims to sensitize people to the dangers of for example unlicensed medications that are sold over the Internet – currently with a focus on medicines for treating erectile dysfunction.

About 3.5 million unlicensed erectile dysfunction pills alone have been seized in the UK last year; their total value amounted to more than 10 million pounds (about 10.8 million euros). To seize the illegal drugs before they reach the market, MHRA intervention teams cooperated with the British border police.

More than half of all medical products purchased online are counterfeit or not approved, the MHRA reports further. Despite legal over-the-counter alternatives, one in ten people in the UK bought counterfeit medicines online in the last year. The agency, meanwhile, is calling on consumers to purchase drugs only from trustworthy online vendors. “Any medication bought from an unregistered website may be fake and will not meet quality and safety standards” said Mark Jackson, Head of Enforcement at the MHRA.

The current #fakemeds campaign by the MHRA is the third instance of the ongoing communications campaign in the past years. Previously, the authorities warned, for example, of the risks of illegitimate diet pills, of counterfeit self-tests for sexually transmitted diseases, and of fake HIV test kits. The campaigns are aimed at raising consumer awareness of the risks of counterfeits.

Sources: MHRA, Securing Industry