Hard Evidence

  • by: |
  • 09/18/2007
From The Times of London ...

Fake world of the Viagra plotters

For tens of thousands of men the medicines offered by Ashish Halai and his gang appeared to be the answer to two of their most worrying and embarrassing health concerns: impotence and baldness.

But the unsuspecting customers, buying what they thought were Viagra and Propecia, were victims of one of the most ambitious and elaborate of counterfeiting crimes. Halai and his associates were buying fake drugs from Chinese suppliers for as little as 25p a tablet and selling them for up to £20.

Details of their vast network – stretching from Britain to Hong Kong, Dubai, the US and the Bahamas – emerged yesterday as justice finally caught up with the conmen.

In the largest drug counterfeiting case in Britain, and after a trial lasting more than seven months, Halai, 33, was jailed at Kingston Crown Court for four and a half years as one of the key players in the plot.

From his £1 million home in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, he helped to mastermind an operation in which fake pills were produced at secret factories in China and Pakistan and smuggled to the US and Europe. The rewards, the court was told, were “immense”.

The investigation, the largest conducted by the Medicines and Health-care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), uncovered profits of more than £2 million. The agency said that this was the “tip of the iceberg”.

“The geographical spread was global and the financial rewards were immense,” Sandip Patel, for the prosecution, told the court.

The case dates back to 2003 and 2004, when counterfeit batches of Viagra and Cialis, impotence drugs made by Pfizer and Eli Lilly, were seized while being smuggled into Heathrow and Stansted airports.

The MHRA immediately launched an investigation which alerted them to a major manufacturing and smuggling operation. Samples showed that the medicines contained about 90 per cent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients found in genuine tablets. Most of the fake pills were sold via the In 2003 the MHRA contacted the US Food and Drug Administration, which seized 8,000 packages of Viagra in Miami. Then, in July 2003, MHRA officers seized more than 120,000 fake Viagra tablets. internet, but some found their way into chemists were they were sold as prescription medicines.

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Caveat emptor is not sound health care policy.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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