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article imageThe fake drugs that can kill

By Alexander Baron     May 23, 2011 in Crime
A partial review of Dominic Littlewood's latest "Fake Britain" programme concerning the importation of potentially lethal illegal drugs.
Although Britain’s soap operas make fascinating viewing, there is only so much substance abuse, adultery and serial murder the average person can take. People who like intelligent plots with a bit of education thrown in could do worse than tune in to Domimic Littlewood’s Fake Britain.
Today’s programme covers a lot of ground including the manufacture and sale of products that are potentially dangerous. One such dangerous product masquerades as Smirnoff vodka. After being alerted to a group of East European men acting suspiciously in the countryside, the authorities found a massive illegal vodka factory complete with fake packaging and labels. As Dominic said, in Eastern Europe thousands of people are taken ill every year after drinking such vodka; there are also a number of fatalities. Unlike legitimate manufacturers, moonshiners don’t go in for such niceties as health and safety regulations and quality control.
A product that most people would definitely not want to drink is Persil; unfortunately, not every box with the Unilever brand name emblazoned on the side contains the real powder, and as Dominic points out, you wouldn’t wash your clothes with this if you knew what it was. Like the fake vodka, the fake washing powder comes in authentic looking packaging. The powder is brought in from China, and boxed up in the UK. Testing revealed it to be “virtually useless as a washing agent”; the money goes on the eye-catching packaging, while the powder itself is of a very low quality, and has the potential both to damage washing machines and to irritate the skin. The leader of the gang was gaoled for two years, and although there is huge potential here for jokes – “Come clean, son, you’re all washed up” – etc – the next report was anything but humorous, because it followed the work of Nimo Ahmed, who is in the front line of policing some of the most dangerous fake products available in Britain. Last month, he had the satisfaction of seeing one man gaoled for eight years for importing large quantities of fake medicines from China.
As he told the programme, the illegal products seized include cancer drugs; fake statins, which are used to treat people at risk from heart attack; and drugs used to treat patients for schizophrenia, and after heart surgery. These are not the sort of products anyone should buy off the back of a lorry, or over the Internet. Mr Ahmed warned that people will see these products advertised on-line with the veneer of legitimacy, but will have no idea that they may have been produced in the back of a garage with all the dangers that entails for the user.
To date, there are no documented cases of deaths in the UK due to such fake medicines, although they can’t be ruled out. The biggest worry is that these potentially lethal products will infiltrate the NHS; some countries, especially India and the Far East, are not so fortunate; deaths are estimated in some cases to run into the thousands.
For those who can access BBC iplayer, today’s Fake Britain can be found here; for those who can’t, watch out for it on YouTube and similar sites. It is evey bit as fascinating as any soap opera, and unlike Coronation Street or EastEnders, it might just save your life.
More about Fake Britain, Dominic Littlewood, Nimo Ahmed, Persil, Unilever
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