Black market pregabalin pills circulating across the North could kill you this Christmas, health officials have warned.
The potentially lethal red and white capsules, containing doses of the drug, which is used to treat anxiety, epilepsy and pain, are being traded illegally by drug dealers.
The medication is often abused recreationally due to its euphoric effects.
Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer for the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG), Peter Moore, warned: “The Department is aware that distinctive red and white capsules containing the prescription only medicine pregabalin may have been illegally manufactured for circulation on the black market.
“I would ask members of the public to avoid any prescription medicines obtained from illicit sources, whatever that source might be.
“Be in no doubt that medicines sourced in this way present a real danger to those taking them.
“Young people in particular may be unaware of the potentially fatal consequences of taking these drugs, particularly when taken with alcohol.”
Professor Mike Mawhinney, Head of the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group, added: “The risk to the public due to illegal or counterfeit medicines is significant.
“This problem is not something we can tackle in isolation and the Medicines Regulatory Group is committed to working with other agencies to disrupt the supply of illegal medicines and will take every opportunity to raise public awareness around the dangers of using medicines from unregulated sources.
“I would urge the public to be vigilant and to avoid putting their health at risk by using medication from an illicit source. People should only take medicines in consultation with a healthcare professional who has access to patient health records.”