Friday 23 March 2018

Market traders caught selling hundreds of prescription drugs with 'two for €5' sign

Liam Pacelli and Robert Burke. Picture: Collins
Liam Pacelli and Robert Burke. Picture: Collins

Tom Tuite

Two market traders are awaiting sentence after getting caught selling more than one hundred different types of prescription drugs from their bric-a-brac stall.

The medication packs, priced at “two for €5”, included Alzheimer's disease and blood thinning medication, Dublin District Court was told.

Liam Pacelli (36) of Whitestown Crescent, in Blanchardstown, D15, and Robert Burke (33) of Westway View, Corduff, Dublin15 apologised in court and said they did not know what they were selling or the possible serious consequences.

They pleaded guilty in a prosecution which followed an investigation by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). Judge John O'Neill noted they had no prior criminal convictions and adjourned the case until a date in July to allow time for a pre-sentence probation report to be furnished.

Robert Burke, Courts Collins
Robert Burke, Courts Collins

They faced four charges for selling prescription only medicines: Warfarin anticoagulant tablets; Lyrica tablets which prevent seizures, Cymbalta medication which is used to treat anxiety and Donepezil Hydrochloride a drug used in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Their fifth charge was for unlawfully selling Paralink suppositories which contains Paracetamol.

Judge John O'Neill heard that a garda seized the packets of medicine from their "bric-a-brac" stall at the Balbriggan Market, in Balbriggan in north Co. Dublin on May 4, 2014. They had various household goods on sale as well the medicinal products with a handwritten sign saying “two for €5”. They had sold about €200 worth before the garda spoke to them.

The garda seized 450 packets of medicinal products and contacted the HPRA, the court heard. There were more than 150 different types of medicine of which 108 required a doctor's prescription.

The HPRA interviewed the two men and had five samples of the drugs tested.

Ciaran Wright, an enforcement officer with the HPRA, told Judge O'Neill that neither defendant was a health care professional or a pharmacist.

Liam Pacelli Picture: Courts Collins
Liam Pacelli Picture: Courts Collins

Mr Wright said the various medications, which needed to be taken under medical supervision, had serious side affects: insomnia, dizziness, diarrhoea, agitation, dyspepsia, skin tissue disorder and hallucinations.

The Warfarin anticoagulant could result in significant bleeding in the event of a haemorrhage.

He agreed with prosecution counsel Brian Gageby that the medicines appear to have been for the Irish market but the HPRA have not yet established if they were originally stolen from a pharmacy or a wholesaler.

Mr Wright also agreed with defence solicitor David Stafford that both men were co-operative when questioned and had told him they did not know the seriousness of what they were selling.

The offences can result in fines of up to €2,000 as well as one-year in prison.

The two men apologised in court and said they had bought the medication from another trader named John whom they had seen selling them at a market in Athy.

The court heard the men operated their stall to earn some money and most of their goods were household items. Mr Stafford said the pair acted stupidly. He said that father-of-one Pacelli trains a kids' football team and is planning on commencing a degree course in youth and community work and would need Garda vetting.

Burke, a father-of-three, is a qualified electrician and also needs to be vetted for work installing alarms in residences and business premises, their also solicitor said in pleas for leniency.

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