July 3, 2008 / 9:45 AM / 11 years ago

UK man sentenced for dealing in fake medicines

LONDON (Reuters) - A British man caught dealing in counterfeit medicines worth at least 1.8 million pounds ($3.57 million) has received a 51 week suspended prison sentence, the country’s drugs regulator said on Thursday.

Viraj Shah was found with a range of bogus prescription-only medicines — AstraZeneca’s Nexium, Novartis’s Diovan, Merck & Co’s Propecia, Procter & Gamble’s Actonel, Pfizer’s Lipitor, Merck and Schering-Plough’s Ezetrol, Merck’s Hyzaar and Abbott’s Reductil.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the case highlighted the risk to public health posed by counterfeit medicines.

European drugmakers say they are increasingly concerned about the threat posed by fake drugs. They called last month for a ban on the repackaging of medicines within the European Union in order to boost security.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers blame the legal practice of parallel trade — in which drugs bought in low-priced markets are repackaged and resold in high-price countries — for fuelling counterfeit traffic. Parallel traders deny the charge.

Counterfeit medicines, which may contain the wrong or even toxic ingredients, are on the rise worldwide. The World Health Organisation estimates they may make up 10 percent of the global pharmaceutical market.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Will Waterman

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