DHSSPS enforcement officers warn against dangers of illicit drugs

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Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG) have warned against the dangers of using medicines from unregulated sources.

The Medicines enforcement officials were speaking following a two-day conference in Dublin entitled ‘Ten Years of Combating Pharmaceutical Crime: Review and prospects’. The conference brought together 200 medicines regulators, law enforcement and customs officials from 50 countries around Europe and the rest of the world to review the progress made over the last 10 years and set the path for future activities.

Over the past 10 years, there have been increased efforts among partners at the international, national and regional level to combat pharmaceutical crime and protect public health. Delegates at the conference heard about the danger to public health and safety through the use of fake or sub standard medicines sourced online or from the black market and about the increasing involvement of organised criminals in the counterfeit pharmaceutical market.

Professor Mike Mawhinney, Head of the DHSSPS’s Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group, said that the conference provided an opportunity to discuss experience and lessons learned, as well as to recommend ways forward for strengthening international collaboration in combating pharmaceutical crime.

He said: “Through active multi- agency collaboration at home and abroad, the Department will continue to work with key partners to take action to disrupt the availability and supply of illegal medicines and take every opportunity to raise public awareness around the dangers of using medicines from unregulated sources.”

DHSSPS Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer Mr Peter Moore, who attended the conference said: “Globally we are seeing a general increase in the trade and availability of illicit medicines. Fake medicines often contain dangerous contaminants or wrong amounts of active ingredient - too much, too little or none at all. This poses potentially major health risks and Northern Ireland is not immune from this threat.

“Recent thefts and seizures of prescription medicines highlights that pharmaceutical crime is an ongoing issue that we must address. I would again urge the public to be vigilant and to avoid putting their health at risk by purchasing medication from an illicit source. People should only take medicines in consultation with their healthcare professionals who have access to patient health records.”