The statistics are truly disturbing, with an annual death toll of around 100,000 from falsified and counterfeit medicines, according to the European Commission, and a criminal enterprise that the World Customs Organisation estimates could generate £1bn worth of illicit business in 2017.

But industry and regulatory authorities are fighting back with new measures to identify rogue shipments and coordinated action to disrupt the supply lines that criss-cross the globe.

The trend to seek medical aid online has made it easy for bogus medicines – containing anything from paint and antifreeze to brick dust and floor wax – to be mailed around the world. The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacy in the EU (ASOP EU) warns that 130 million people in Europe are risking their health by ordering from the 30,000 illegal pharmacy websites that have flooded the Internet.

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