Revised: 28 March 2013


Conviction for sale of herbal smoking material containing a prescription medicine

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

A 53-year-old Blenheim man has been sentenced to 180 hours’ community work, a fine of $1,500 and ordered to pay analysts' fees of $6,950 for illegally importing, possessing, manufacturing and selling a prescription medicine.

Nabil Shendi’s court appearance on 26 March 2013 followed the interception by Customs of five 100 gram packages of Zaleplon over four months at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Following the interception, Mr Shendi's premises were searched by Medsafe investigators, Police and Customs staff and further quantities of Zaleplon were found.

In court Mr Shendi pleaded guilty to selling Wacky Backy Vivid Dreams, a product containing Zaleplon which had been mixed with herbal smoking material.

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 drugs.

The illegal sale or misuse of prescription medicines is a serious matter which can result in harm to health.

Prescription medicines are only legally able to be used with a doctor’s prescription, which helps ensure that the benefits and risks of using medicines have been carefully considered prior to use.

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 products. 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 certain parts of 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 in relation to pre-market approval and post market surveillance. These products include medicines and related products, medical devices and controlled drugs used as medicines.

What were the four charges Nabil Shendi pleaded guilty to and was convicted of?

On 26 March 2013, Mr Shendi pleaded guilty to four charges laid against him by the Ministry of Health.

  • One charge of importing a prescription medicine without reasonable excuse (section 43(1) of the Medicines Act 1981).
  • One charge of possession for sale of a new medicine without the consent of the Minister of Health (section 20(2)(a) of the Medicines Act 1981).
  • One charge of manufacturing a medicine otherwise than in accordance with a licence issued pursuant to the Medicines Act 1981 (section 17(1)(a) of the Medicines Act 1981).
  • OOne charge of sale of a new medicine without the consent of the Minister of Health (section 20(2)(a) of the Medicines Act 1981).
What were the significant public health risks posed by Mr Shendi’s activities?

By supplying an unapproved prescription medicine outside the regulatory system, Mr Shendi put the public's health at risk.

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.

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