Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 14:51 UK

Trade in illegal medicine exposed


An undercover investigation finds illegal drugs being sold in car parks

Counterfeit drugs containing chemicals ranging from road paint to printer ink are being sold across the South East.

An undercover investigation by the BBC found illegal pharmaceutical drugs being sold by dealers in Kent.

Dover MP Gwyn Prosser said he wanted an inquiry into the trading of the drugs and would raise the issue at the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it was a crime that also robbed people of the chance to be diagnosed.

It is thought that more than two million people in the UK buy medicines over the internet, many of which are counterfeit, substandard or unapproved.

A BBC reporter found illegal drugs being advertised in a shop window in Whitstable.

In a deal that took place in the neighbouring car park, the reporter bought 40 fake Viagra pills, called Kamagra, for £85.

The crime is not just against the legal establishment because he is selling illegal drugs. [It's a crime] against individual men
Dr Ian Banks

In the UK, it is illegal to sell or advertise Kamagra.

Mr Prosser said: "I am concerned and I intend to bring this to the attention of the Home Affairs Select Committee tomorrow and hopefully we will have an inquiry into this.

"I congratulate you [BBC South East Today] on this report. I am going to show [Keith Vaz] your report and asking him for at least a one-day inquiry."

When the drugs were analysed during the investigation, they were found to contain the same active ingredient as Viagra.

The footage was shown to Dr Ian Banks, from the BMA, who said: "He thinks he's Robin Hood.

"But this guy is not stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

"This guy is committing a crime."

He added: "The crime is not just against the legal establishment because he is selling illegal drugs.

"[It's a crime] against individual men, robbing them of the opportunity of having diagnosis for underlying conditions."

Dr Banks said that many men who sought such drugs unknowingly suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure, which were two of the biggest killers of men in the UK.

When the BBC reporter bought the pills, he was warned by the seller not to take them if he had suffered either a stroke or heart attack.

Claire Tilstone, from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, says drugs sold online can be unsafe

Pharmaceutical drugs that were available online included diet pills, sleeping pills, steroids, and tranquillizers.

Many were manufactured overseas, imported to the UK and sold on for profit.

The reporter found steroids being advertised on a website of classified adverts.

He arranged to meet the seller in the car park of Bluewater shopping centre, where he bought two types of drugs for £150.

Drugs manufacturer Pfizer said many of the counterfeit drugs contained dangerous chemicals.

Wendy Greenall, who works for Pfizer investigating the sale of fake medicines, said: "We've found boric acid, lead-based road paint, printer ink to colour it blue in the case of Viagra.

"The list goes on for ages about nasty stuff."

One of the men filmed by BBC South East claimed he did not realise he was breaking the law.

'Embarrassment' factor

All the drugs obtained during the investigation are being handed to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which works with police forces to tackle the illegal sale and supply of medicines over the internet.

An MHRA statement said: "People are advised that they should only take prescription-only medicines after an appropriate consultation with their GP.

"Anyone who self medicates and buys their medicines from internet sites could be in danger of receiving counterfeit or substandard medicines.

"At best these will be a waste of money, at worst they can kill."

It said most illegal internet pharmacies were based overseas.

They target "lifestyle" medicines, such as medicine for erectile dysfunction, slimming, smoking cessation, hair-loss and anti-depressants which had high demand, because of the perceived "embarrassment" factor.

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