Volume of anabolic steriods seized in Ireland alarms pharmacists
IPU president criticises lack of progress in rolling out proposed healthcare strategy
IPU executive committee member Caitriona O’Riordan said the most immediate risk of illegal medications was the lack of quality control. File photograph:Jason Clarke
Pharmacists are growing increasingly concerned at the rise in the levels of counterfeit or illegal medications being seized in Ireland.
There was a discussion at the annual conference of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) in Wexford on Saturday about figures from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) which show that almost a million medical doses were seized in Ireland last year, a 40 per cent increase on 2016.
Speaking at the conference IPU executive committee member Caitriona O’ Riordan said that people who ordered medicines online or through other non-official channels were “ignoring decades of healthcare practice that has been established in the best interest of best patients”.
Ms O’Riordan said the most immediate risk of illegal medications was the lack of quality control.
“What is most concerning is that there is no way for anyone to know what is in these supposed medications. Quite often they have been found to be worthless placebos, meaning genuine health complaints and illnesses go untreated, while in other cases the products contain toxins, harmful levels of active ingredients and even bacterial contamination.”
Ms O’Riordan said she was alarmed at the volume (449,411) of anabolic steroids that have been seized, “which indicates a possible rise in the number of people using these drugs to build muscle mass and boost sporting performance. This is an exceptionally dangerous endeavour. Many people do not realise the serious side effects of steroids, which can lead to addiction, and include fatigue, insomnia, decreased sex drive, steroid cravings and even psychosis.”
She said that medications should only ever be provided by qualified healthcare professionals.
She said it was not appropriate and not safe for people to take matters into their own hands.”
“When you get a medicine from your community pharmacy you know this product has been through rigorous testing and quality assurance. Your pharmacists will provide you with all necessary advice on the medicine and tell you about any side effects that should be monitored. None of these safeguards apply to illegal online medicines.”
Separately, IPU president Daragh Connolly criticised the lack of progress made by the Government in implementing its healthcare strategy. He said little had been done to promote primary health care and that patients and the public were suffering as a result.
A cross-party committee of TDs last year published a report on Sláintecare, a proposed reform of the health service which was deemed a potential cornerstone of the State’s future healthcare strategy.
However, Mr Connolly said little had been done to implement the recommendations.
“Here is a strategy which makes absolute sense in moving health out of secondary care into primary care, and treating patients in their own communities. The difficulty is that the Government’s approach to reorienting the health service towards primary care is creating an over reliance on GP services, that GPs themselves say is unsustainable,” he said.
“The fundamental flaw in the strategy is the failure to recognise and utilise the potential of pharmacists, whose contribution to primary care has been recognised internationally. Community pharmacists in Ireland can play a greater role, which would free up more capacity in local GP clinics which are already struggling under their ever-increasing workloads.”