A EURO MP has welcomed moves to protect people from a multi-billion pound counterfeit drugs industry which is feared to kill half a million people each year.

Criminals are plying people suffering from cancer and heart disease as well as psychiatric illnesses with fake medicine which is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

The counterfeit drugs either have no active ingredients at all or have much higher doses than is safe.

Alarmingly, some drugs tested by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found traces of brick dust and rat poison.

Sophisticated criminal gangs buy the same packaging equipment as drug companies so people taking the drugs can't spot a fake from the real thing.

The illicit trade is thought to rake in £10billion a year for the gangs.

North West Lib Dem Euro MP Chris Davies said: "Counterfeiters selling these drugs are putting people's lives in danger out of sheer greed.

"The fact they can gain access to legitimate chemists and hospitals is frightening."