A UK regulator has said that it is seeing an increase in unlicensed Eastern European drugs being sold in small high street shops across Britain.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said last year it investigated 74 cases involving Polish and other medicines from Eastern European countries being sold in ‘corner shops’ around the UK.
These included pharmacy-only and prescription-only medicines.
Medicines licensed in Poland or any other European Member states cannot be legally sold in the UK unless a prior MHRA Parallel Import Licence or a Parallel Distribution Notification has been obtained for its supply in the UK.
MHRA Acting Head of Enforcement, Nimo Ahmed, said there are dangers attached to taking these unlicensed medicines.
"We urge people not to buy medicines that are not labelled in English. Medicines are not ordinary consumer products. There are also specific health concerns with certain medicines that should be prescribed and dispensed under the supervision of a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or a pharmacist," Ahmed said.
"Anyone who self-medicates and buys these medicines from shops that are not registered pharmacies could be endangering their health. The medicine may also not be suitable for individual patients and could interact with other medicines being taken and at worst, may cause serious harm."
He also stated that anyone selling these drugs is committing a crime.
"We recommend that consumers take note of this guidance to safeguard themselves from potential harm and that suppliers take note of this guidance to avoid committing a criminal offence," Ahmed said.
Under the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 someone convicted of selling unlicensed pharmacy-only or prescription drugs can be sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment and / or receive an unlimited fine.
Only medicines that have been licensed for sale in the UK and labelled in the English language with an accompanying patient information leaflet in English can be sold and supplied legally in the UK.