Compliance

Publised:  8 October 2018

Sale of medicines and medical devices via social media

Medicines and medical devices must meet quality, safety and effectiveness / performance requirements before they can be supplied in New Zealand. The supply of medicines and medical devices is controlled through the Medicines Act 1981

In general, medicines must be approved before they can be supplied within New Zealand, and importers and manufacturers of medical devices must notify their products to a database operated by Medsafe.

Medsafe has become aware of the sale of these products through social media (such as Facebook) and provides the following guidance.

Quality, safety and effectiveness

Purchasing medicines or medical devices over the internet from sources that are either individuals or are organisations / companies which are not entitled to sell them is strongly discouraged. The quality and safety of these products cannot be assured. For instance, it is possible that the products may be faulty, contaminated, counterfeit, damaged, stolen, sub-potent, toxic, may have been stored incorrectly, or may not have been approved for use in New Zealand.

In many instances, for example in the case of prescription medicines, certain other medicines and certain medical devices, it is important for the intended purchaser to be under the care of a health care professional (for instance a doctor). This is to ensure the medicine or medical device is appropriate and that the purchaser has adequate ongoing care.

Sale or supply of medicines

It is illegal to sell or supply (including giving free of charge) prescription, pharmacist-only and pharmacy-only medicines over the internet, and by social media, unless the seller / supplier is authorised under the Medicines Act to do so. Such sales could normally only be made by pharmacies and by some health care professionals, provided they meet certain requirements.

The on-sale or supply (including supply by giving away free of charge) of a medicine that had been dispensed for a particular person is illegal. It is also illegal to supply pharmacist-only and pharmacy-only medicines unless authorised to do so. Depending on the circumstances, fines of up to $40,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months are possible, on successful prosecution.

In the case of prescription medicines, it is illegal for the purchaser to purchase and possess the medicine without a valid authorisation.

Medical devices

Medical devices for sale within New Zealand must have been notified to a database accessed through Medsafe. The seller / supplier should ensure a device is of acceptable quality, any safety requirements are met, and that it is suitable for its intended use. Medsafe advises that there are particular hazards in using second-hand devices as these may be contaminated, faulty or unfit for purpose.

In summary

Medsafe strongly discourages the sale and supply of medicines and medical devices via social media. We advise that medicines and medical devices should only be purchased or dispensed from legitimate suppliers.