Revised: 30 September 2011


Medsafe Warns of Dangers of Purchasing Medicines Online

Medsafe today reiterated its warning about the dangers of purchasing medicines online, citing that some websites sell medicines that may not be safe to use and could put people's health at risk.

"Buying medicines over the Internet is risky because you cannot be sure the medicines supplied will meet regulatory requirements relating to quality, safety and effectiveness," said Derek Fitzgerald, Manager of Medsafe's Compliance Management Branch.

"Medicines sold over the Internet are often sourced directly from overseas so will not have been approved to New Zealand standards, and may not have been approved by a reputable regulatory authority anywhere. So consumers who buy online run the risk of purchasing medicines that are inappropriate for them or unknowingly purchasing medicines that are counterfeit, substandard or contain dangerous ingredients," according to Mr Fitzgerald.

"We strongly encourage consumers, especially those intending to buy prescription medicines, to consult their doctor, who can advise on potential side effects, interactions with other medicines and dosage," Mr Fitzgerald said.

Medsafe's warning came at the close of a week-long global operation targeting the online sale of counterfeit and illegal medicines, the fourth annual operation in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce.

New Zealand and 80 other countries took part in Operation Pangea IV, which was coordinated by INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime, the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers, the pharmaceutical industry and the electronic payments industry.

As part of its ongoing programme, the New Zealand Customs Service intercepted nearly 300 consignments suspected of containing medicines during the global operation from 20 to 27 September 2011. Medsafe examined the consignments and found a wide variety of medicines, including those used for the treatment of heart disease and erectile dysfunction.

Around 180 of the nearly 300 consignments were either detained pending further investigation, returned to the point of origin or seized because they contained prescription medicines, they were not labelled and thus could not be identified, or they were products known to contain undeclared or hidden ingredients.


Additional information

What types of medicines were found in the consignments inspected by Customs and Medsafe?

The consignments were found to contain assorted antibiotics, painkillers, oral contraceptives and prescription medicines for the treatment of heart disease, weight loss, mental health conditions, erectile dysfunction, skin disorders, insomnia, flu, coughs and colds, gastrointestinal illness and respiratory illness.

Where were the medicines imported from?

The medicines originated from over 30 countries including China, Macau, India, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Japan, Fiji, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Ukraine, Georgia, Hungary, Poland, Germany and Colombia.

For media queries, please contact: Luz Baguioro, Media Advisor (04 496 2349, 021 802 622)

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