Seizure of illegal medicines up 58% in past year, says regulator

More than 1.6 million units of falsified or illegal medicines detained in 2020, says HPRA

Sedatives accounted for 36 per cent of the medicines seized, and erectile dysfunction medicines for 30 per cent

Sedatives accounted for 36 per cent of the medicines seized, and erectile dysfunction medicines for 30 per cent

 

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has said it is concerned at a 58 per cent increase in the number of illegal medicines detained last year.

More than 1.6 million units of falsified or illegal medicines were detained in 2020, with the most significant categories of illegal products being sedatives (36 per cent), erectile dysfunction medicines (30 per cent), analgesics (9 per cent) and anabolic steroids (6 per cent).

Some 583,805 units of sedative medication and 484,846 doses of erectile dysfunction drugs were seized. There were 370,000 erectile dysfunction tablets detained in one seizure alone.

The HPRA said there were 56,876 units of Covid-19 medicines detained, “the majority of which related to traditional Chinese medicine not approved or authorised for use in Ireland”.

Meanwhile, 482 websites, e-commerce listings and/or social media pages were amended or shut down last year.

Three prosecution cases were also initiated in relation to the importation or distribution of anabolic steroid products and eleven voluntary formal cautions issued.

Dr Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the HPRA, said the year-on-year increase in illicit medicines being detected and detained is “very concerning”.

“The internet is a major outlet for legitimate purchases such as food, clothing and electronics, and people may not realise that sourcing prescription medicines online is illegal and that the sources behind these sites can be bogus, or worse, criminal networks,” Dr Nolan said.

“The monitoring of websites, online marketplace advertisements and social media sites throughout the year to identity illegal sales of illicit medicines is a key part of our work to protect consumers.

“We are also seriously concerned that an escalating number of people are not conscious of the potentially significant health risks they are taking by purchasing potent prescription medicines online without medical supervision, rather than under the care of their doctor or pharmacist.

“While, in many cases, those who buy online at best may be simply wasting their money on falsified, including counterfeit, product, at worst, they may be taking very serious health risks.”