Bogus drug website operators face 12-year jail sentences

Operators of bogus online pharmacies could face up to 12 years in jail under a new law developed by the MHRA.

New criminal sentences are being introduced to help convict bogus online pharmacies
New criminal sentences are being introduced to help convict bogus online pharmacies

Specific criminal sentences for counterfeiting medicines are to be introduced in the UK. Convicted individuals would face a maximum penalty of 10-12 years' imprisonment, the agency has announced. Individuals could be found guilty of either supplying or offering to supply counterfeit medicines.

Current penalties are seen as limited in scope and to be failing to provide any deterrent. The MHRA proposed earlier this year to develop such an offence.

It has now developed more detailed plans for how such a criminal sentence would work and launched a consultation on these proposals.

Earlier this year, GP newspaper revealed that one in four GPs had treated patients for adverse reactions to medicines bought online. Medicines bought online are often counterfeit and may contain dangerous ingredients, research suggests.

The definition of counterfeiting will include details about the packaging of products and the documentation supplied with them, the MHRA has said. However, other details of the language in which the offence would be couched have yet to be determined.

The agency is to look into whether a similar jail term could be established with EU-wide coverage, although the law will initially cover the UK alone.

The proposals are open for consultation until March 2010.

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