Online sales of medicines being targeted

Government medicines regulator Medsafe is moving to curb the sale of pharmaceutical drugs privately via social media.

Concerned by the sale of  drugs and medical devices from sites such as Facebook, Medsafe this week warned it was only legal to sell or give away pharmacy-only medicines if authorised to do so under the Medicines Act.

Medsafe worked closely with police and Customs to monitor possible illegal advertising and sale of medicines.

Last year, a Christchurch man was jailed  for two years for illegally selling performance-enhancing drugs and beauty products online.

"Products obtained this way have no quality, safety or efficacy guarantee," Medsafe compliance manager Derek Fitzgerald said.

"They may not have not been approved for supply in New Zealand, they may not have come from a regulated market, they may not come from where they appear to, they may be of poor quality or contaminated."

Apart from concerns about the quality of medicines, prescription-only products were provided to patients in certain dosages and amounts and buying online could result in patients taking drugs with too much or too little active material, he  said.

"It is important for the intended purchaser to be under the care of a healthcare professional —for instance a doctor — to ensure the medicine or medical device is appropriate and that the purchaser has adequate ongoing care."

Any medical device for sale in New Zealand had to be notified to a database accessed through Medsafe, and the seller needed to ensure it was of acceptable quality, safe, and fit for purpose.

"There are particular hazards in using second-hand devices, as these may be contaminated, faulty or unfit for purpose."

For the past decade, New Zealand and 123 other countries have taken part in an  exercise targeting illicit pharmaceutical drugs.

The latest operation resulted in  426 packages  being held for further investigation, 253 more than last year.


The flip side is the medications that Pharmac will not subsidise due to budget constraints , which for some people would need to be sourced privately( and expensively).