Published: 6 June 2013

Prescription Medicines - Up in Smoke

Prescriber Update 34(2):20
June 2013

A recent case has highlighted that patients may unknowingly be exposed to prescription medicines. Importantly, this exposure may have come through an unusual route, such as smoking. Unscrupulous suppliers are dealing in prescription medicines and other hazardous substances, which may have serious consequences for consumers.

In March 2013, Medsafe successfully prosecuted a Blenheim retailer for importing, possessing, manufacturing and selling a herbal smoking material that contained the prescription medicine, zaleplon. The defendant had imported and added zaleplon to a herbal smoking material for sale under the name ‘Wacky Backy Vivid Dreams’.

Zaleplon is a hypnotic medicine used in the short-term management of insomnia and has sedative properties. Zaleplon can also have paradoxical effects such as excitation leading to hostility, aggression and disinhibition. High doses can cause slow or shallow breathing and low blood pressure. These reactions can be serious especially when mixed with other medicines or illicit drugs. Zaleplon is currently not in any approved products in New Zealand.

Packages destined for the defendant were intercepted by Customs New Zealand in late 2011 and early 2012 and referred to Medsafe. The premises were subsequently searched by Medsafe investigators, Customs staff and Police.

The retailer pleaded guilty to four charges under the Medicines Act 1981. The retailer was sentenced to 180 hours’ community work, a fine of $1500 and was ordered to pay analysts’ fees of $6950.