Revised: 17 September 2010


Former bodybuilder sentenced for illegal sale of anabolic steroids

The Auckland District Court today handed down a three-month jail term to former bodybuilder Mark William Rainbow for importing, possessing and supplying prescription and other medicines in breach of the medicines legislation.

At the same hearing, Mr Rainbow was sentenced to five years in prison for offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Police handled all aspects of this particular trial. He will be serving both sentences concurrently.

Mr Rainbow, 43, pleaded guilty last March to 38 breaches of the Medicines Act 1981, including possession of anabolic steroids and related medicines used for performance and image enhancement, and sale of unapproved medicines.

Mr Rainbow imported medicines from Thailand in May 2008 that had been concealed in bottles falsely labelled "Gay Lube Oil". The contents were then transferred into bottles labelled with the name of Mr Rainbow's trading company, SSIS Pharmaceuticals. The products he sold were not of a pharmaceutical standard and their lack of quality assurance posed a real risk to those using them.

Medsafe investigators, working with Customs and Police personnel, found that Mr Rainbow supplied these unapproved medicines to at least three people.

"Mr Rainbow put the public's health at risk by supplying prescription medicines outside the regulatory system that is in place to assure the safety, efficacy and quality of medicines," said Derek Fitzgerald, manager of Medsafe's Compliance Management branch.

"He was supplying prescription medicines to consumers who had not received proper medical assessment and advice. There was no consideration as to the safety and suitability of these medicines for consumers, including the impact the medicines could have on consumers through side effects or interaction with other medications," Mr Fitzgerald noted.

Potential adverse effects from the use of anabolic steroids include: stunted growth, if used by those under 21 years old, virilisation of women, worsening of heart failure, renal failure, and hypertension. When used in high doses, risks include liver tumours and liver toxicity, abnormal cholesterol levels, and psychiatric disturbances such as depression, aggression and hypomania.

Mr Fitzgerald said the outcome of this prosecution should serve as a warning that offences of this nature that pose a high risk to others will be dealt with to the full extent of the law.

The Medicines Act provides that prescription medicines, restricted medicines and pharmacy only medicines can only be supplied through a licensed pharmacy or by an authorised health professional.


Questions and Answers

What is the Medicines Act 1981?

The Medicines Act 1981 regulates the manufacture, sale and distribution of medicines, medical devices and related product. The framework of the Act is designed to ensure that consumers receive medicines that are safe, effective and of an acceptable quality. The Act sets out legislative requirements for the sale, advertising, distribution, manufacture and importation of medicines.

Medsafe is responsible for administering the Medicines Act 1981:

The Medicines Act is accompanied by the Medicines Regulations 1984:

What is Medsafe?

Medsafe is the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority. It is a business unit of the Ministry of Health and is the authority responsible for the regulation of therapeutic products in New Zealand. These products include medicines and related products, medical devices and controlled drugs used as medicines.

What were the 38 charges Mark Rainbow pleaded guilty to and was convicted of?

On 25 March 2010, Mr Rainbow pleaded guilty to 38 charges laid against him by the Ministry of Health:

3 charges of importing prescription medicines without reasonable excuse

5 charges of supplying prescription medicines in circumstances corresponding to retail sale other than by a pharmacist in a pharmacy

18 charges of selling new medicines without consent (that is, selling medicines that have not been approved for distribution in New Zealand)

12 charges of possession of prescription medicines without reasonable excuse

Has Medsafe prosecuted other people for similar offences?

Since March 2009, eight other people have been convicted as a result of prosecutions by the Ministry of Health under the Medicines Act 1981, for importing, possessing and supplying performance- and image-enhancing drugs.

The scale and nature of the offending is varied, as have been the sentences imposed on those convicted.

What were the significant public health risks posed by Mr Rainbow's activities?

By supplying prescription and unapproved medicines outside the regulatory system, Mr Rainbow put the public's health at risk because:

Prescription medicines were made available to the public unsupervised by a doctor or pharmacist with no consideration as to their safety and suitability for the consumer. Prescription medicines are potent substances used for conditions that require a thorough and effective diagnosis by a medical professional

The quality of the medicines did not meet pharmaceutical standards leaving the consumer exposed to risks such as infection, overdose and the possibility of exposure to unknown contaminants.

People using anabolic steroids without appropriate medical advice face a range of adverse effects. These may not be identified at an early stage and appropriate medical intervention may not be provided in a timely manner. This delay can lead to more serious and permanent complications related to the use of these medicines.

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