Five on trial in EU's most serious fake drugs case

FIVE men put the health of sick patients at risk in the most serious fake medicine scam ever seen in the European Union, a court has heard.

Motivated by greed, the British businessmen were involved in an operation to import counterfeit prescription drugs for conditions including prostate cancer, heart disease and schizophrenia from China to the UK, and pretend they were genuine products to sell them, Croydon Crown Court was told yesterday.

By mimicking authentic medicines to suggest they were of EU origin, they illegally infiltrated the highly-regulated system designed to protect the public and pharmaceutical industry, the court heard.

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The five men are accused of conspiring together and with others to defraud pharmaceutical wholesalers, pharmacists, members of the public and holders of intellectual property rights in pharmaceuticals between 1 January, 2006 and 30 June, 2007.

Andrew Marshall, prosecuting, said: "This case is considered to represent the most serious breach of the medicine control regime - it's the most serious breach that has happened in the EU."

He added: "They were prepared to make their money by feeding duff drugs to people with serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, heart disease and prostate cancer."

To show the value of the medicines, the prosecutor said 145,000 patients in the UK were prescribed Zyprexa, which cost 79.45 for a 28-tablet packet. If all the patients had one pack a year that would be 13.8m. Casodex costs 128 a pack, and Plavix 35 a pack, the court heard.

Peter Gillespie, 64, of Bovingdon, Hertfordshire; Richard Kemp, 61, of Flint, north Wales; Ian Harding, 58, of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire; James Quinn, 69, of Virginia Water, Surrey and Ian Gillespie, 59, of Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire, all deny conspiracy to defraud.

The case continues.