Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 17:58 UK

'King of Viagra' jailed for fraud

Real Viagra
Real Viagra is made by Pfizer

A doctor has been jailed for three years for his role in a multi-million pound plot to sell fake medicines.

Dr George Patino, supposedly known online as the "King of Viagra", sold thousands of counterfeit impotence tablets to customers via the web.

He pleaded guilty at Kingston Crown Court and was described a "disgrace to his profession" by the judge.

Patino, 48, who is a Mexican national with a US passport, was also ordered to pay costs and had money confiscated.

The fake Viagra tablets were mostly sold through the internet, with as many as 200 orders being placed everyday.

Last year he had stood trial alongside other members of a gang who were convicted of smuggling copies of Viagra and medicines to treat baldness from illegal factories in China, Pakistan and Asia.

'Headaches and nausea'

The jury could not reach a verdict on Patino and he was due to appear for a retrial, but last week entered a guilty plea to one charge.

The court heard Patino was in league with the lynchpin of the operation Ashish Halai, 34, of Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, who was jailed for four-and-a-half years last year.

When customers received the fake medicines they arrived in brown bottles rather than in the packaging used by manufacturer Pfizer.

A Finnish post box number was listed as the return address on the labels to deliberately conceal the identities of those behind the operation.

E-mails from disgruntled customers complaining the tablets were fake were read to the court, with some people saying they had suffered headaches and nausea.

Others complained they had no effect while another said the tablets were coated in blue paint which was coming off.

'Disgrace to profession'

Judge Nicholas Price QC told him: "As a highly intelligent man you must have been aware of the consequences of the illicit trade in Viagra.

"You must bear a heavy responsibility for your actions that were driven by greed and a reckless disregard for the effects of your criminality.

"Such conduct from a doctor of medicine goes against all medical ethics and makes you a disgrace within your profession."

Patino was arrested in October 2005 at Heathrow Airport as he waited for a plane to Leeds and was found to be carrying a laptop and memory stick containing files which revealed his business dealings.

Investigators also found more than 2,000 digital photographs depicting or associated with pharmaceutical products.

The case was prosecuted by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in an operation known as Stormgrand.

Mick Deats, group manager of enforcement at the MHRA, said: "Counterfeit medicines can be dangerous - designed so as to deceive people and healthcare professionals whilst generating vast profits for the counterfeiters.

"The MHRA will not hesitate to use the full range of powers available to investigate and prosecute those who represent a risk to public health."

Patino, who qualified as a doctor in 1994, was also ordered to pay 50,000 in costs, banned from being a company director for 10 years and had a sum of nearly $US237,000 (135,000) confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.


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