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The Government is set to target the UK Internet industry in a bid to crack-down on sites illegally advertising and selling prescription medicines such as the male anti-impotence drug Viagra.

In effect, the whole of the UK Internet industry is being warned to comply with the existing law concerning the advertising and sale of prescription-only medicine or face legal action.

MSN UK has already taken steps to ensure that it complies with the law.

In a statement Robin Kellett, MSN UK search manager said: "We have recently investigated the legality of advertising prescription-only medicines on the MSN UK Web site.

"We have found that Section 50.12 of the British Code of Advertising Practices prohibits advertising prescription-only medicines to the general public.

"So, given that MSN is a popular Web site which appeals to the general public, we have taken the decision to remove these forms of advertising from our site," he said.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA) - which ensures that all medicines on the UK market meet appropriate standards - is due to launch its campaign shortly.

It receives around 10 to 15 allegations a month concerning Web sites and prescription-only drugs. Most of the complaints relate to sites based outside the UK and so international cooperation is needed to deal with these cases.

So far, though, it has managed to close down six sites with the help of ISPs, and secured a further three prosecutions. ®

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