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Published: 28 June 2013

Medsafe Warns of the Dangers of Purchasing Medicines Over the Internet

28 June 2013
Derek Fitzgerald, Manager, Compliance Management, Medsafe

Medsafe is warning about the dangers of buying medicines online following a joint Medsafe and Customs crackdown on substandard, illegal or counterfeit medicines.

Medsafe Manager Compliance Management Derek Fitzgerald says prescription medicines purchased online are risky because quality, safety and effectiveness can’t be guaranteed.

Prescription medicines are potent substances and as such should only be used following a consultation with a doctor.

Medsafe and Customs participated in the week-long Operation PANGEA VI led by INTERPOL (June 18–25). This is the sixth time New Zealand authorities have participated.

Customs targets all incoming international mail suspected to contain medicines, and thousands of interceptions are referred to Medsafe each year.

As a result of Operation PANGEA VI, 298 packages were held requiring further investigation, more than double the number investigated last year (124).

These parcels originated from 32 different countries around the world (21 last year) and were stopped because they contained prescription medicines, weren’t labelled or were known to contain undeclared or hidden ingredients. The most common sources of these products were India (79), USA (59) and China (30).

Mr Fitzgerald says unlabelled medicines were the most prevalent products examined by Medsafe (8774 individual tablets). Medicines for weight loss, diabetes and insomnia were the next most prevalent.  Only one parcel contained a counterfeit or fake product — the same as last year.

Medsafe strongly encourages consumers, especially those intending to buy prescription medicines, to consult their doctor, who can advise on potential side effects, interactions with other medicines and appropriate dosage.

Prescription medicines are referred to Medsafe by Customs to ensure compliance with New Zealand law. Most prescription medicines Medsafe detained are held until the importer provides a valid doctor’s prescription — if this does not occur they are destroyed.

Additional Information

Operation PANGEA VI was coordinated by INTERPOL in conjunction with the World Customs Organisation, the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers and the Pharmaceutical Security Institute.

New Zealand was one of 99 countries that participated in Operation PANGEA VI this year.

Countries that participated in operation PANGEA VI included: Albania; Angola; Argentina; Armenia; Australia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Barbados; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Canada; China; Chile; Colombia; Congo (Democratic Republic of); Costa Rica; Croatia; Costa Rica; Czech Republic; Cyprus; Denmark; Dominican Republic; ; Ethiopia; Estonia; Finland; France; Gambia; Germany; Greece; Guyana; Hong Kong (China); Hungary; India; Indonesia; Iran; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Jordon; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Kenya; Korea (The Republic of the); Kuwait; Latvia; Liberia; Libya; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Malaysia; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova; Mongolia; Montengero; Myanmar; Namibia; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria;Northern Ireland (UK); Norway; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russia; Rwanda; Samoa; San Marino; Saudi Arabia; Serbia; Singapore; Sint Maarten; Slovakia; Slovenia ; Spain; South Africa; Sudan (The Republic of the); Swaziland; Sweden; Switzerland; Tajikistan; Tanzania; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; USA; UK; Vietnam; Zimbabwe

INTERPOL media release (27 June 2013)

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