HL Deb 25 June 1986 vol 477 cc408-9WA
Lord Northfield

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to ascertain the proportion of parallel imports of medicines that are products which have no licence under the Product Licence (Parallel Imports) scheme; whether they can confirm that this could be as much as one-third of those parallel imports, despite progress in issues of licences; what staff they have to check on abuse; and whether they are satisfied that they can put an end to this unlicensed trade in the near future.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Baroness Trumpington)

The Government have concentrated available resources on consideration of parallel import licence applications and on examination of all complaints received about unlicensed imports.

It is not possible to confirm or deny that as much as one-third of parallel imports may be unlicensed, but 82 per cent. of applications for product licenses (parallel importing) have now been determined. Checks on abuse are carried out by DHSDS medicine inspectors, inspectors of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and investigation officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Government believe the combination of steps now taken have markedly reduced the incentives in, and publicised the penalties for, unlicensed trading. But constant policing is still needed to minimise the extent of unlicensed trade.

Lord Northfield

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many complaints they have received and how many they are currently investigating, about alleged unlawful importation and/or sale of medicines that should be subject to the Product Licence (Parallel Imports) scheme; how many prosecutions are in progress or pending; how many warnings have been issued; and why progress is slow in this matter.

Baroness Trumpington

A large number of complaints have been received, but because multiple or duplicate complaints may be involved detailed figures are not available. Each complaint is examined and is followed up if detailed evidence can be obtained. At present two companies have been or are being prosecuted, and another eight are being considered for prosecution; 16 companies are being investigated or being considered for investigation.

Warnings have been issued to several companies. In addition, all parallel importers have been reminded of the penalties for trading in unlicensed imported products.

The investigation of complaints and the preparation for a successful prosecution is a lengthy procedure, and further delays occur if the defendant elects for trial before a Crown Court.