UNSAFE drugs may have been taken by thousands of patients after Mafia-linked gangs infiltrated the NHS supply chain.
A huge cache of commonly prescribed medicines were stolen in Italy, then sold to unsuspecting pharmacists and hospitals in Britain.
The Government’s drug watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, was warned in August 2014 that potentially harmful pills were in the system.
Yet they failed to warn that patients were at risk, claims an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches that airs tonight at 8pm.
Among the drugs is prostate cancer treatment Casodex and statin Crestor. A further 25 drugs affected include antidepressants and treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and asthma.
They are thought to be among drugs stolen from Italian hospitals between 2011 and 2014.
They were then sold on to unsuspecting UK suppliers by bogus European wholesalers set up by Mafia-linked gangs.
It is thought some of the drugs were tampered with while others were damaged by poor storage.
The alarm was raised when a German firm discovered breast cancer drugs bought from a UK supplier were ineffective.
Drugs expert Professor Atholl Johnston said: “The conditions medicines are stored in is absolutely critical. Pharmacies go to great lengths to make sure they’re stored in the right way.
“If they’re not stored like that, some drugs will break down into other compounds and those may cause problems. They may be carcinogenic, or they may give rise to other side effects.”
MP Norman Lamb, a former Lib Dem health minister, said: “What I find extraordinary is there hasn’t been openness about this.”
The MHRA has started an investigation in the wake of the claims. It said it took its responsibilities “very seriously”.