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New Regulations Controlling Internet Drug Sales

NEW regulations which will see tighter controls on the sale of prescription medicines over the internet take effect tomorrow. (Friday 3 November)

The regulations will prohibit sales overseas of prescription medicines to individuals who do not have a prescription from a New Zealand authorised prescriber. The requirement to have a NZ based prescription will restrict the ability of overseas consumers to purchase medicines from NZ pharmacies which would require medical supervision to use safely.

The move follows a court case late last year which highlighted a limitation in the New Zealand law allowing such sales to occur to overseas customers.

Senior Advisor Dr Stewart Jessamine said it has always been illegal for New Zealand pharmacists, GP's or any other medical practitioners to provide prescription medicines to New Zealand consumers over the internet, or by any other means, without evidence of a written prescription by a NZ registered practitioner. However, until now, that same protection had not been available to overseas consumers.

"The Medical Council of New Zealand also has strict guidelines about doctors prescribing medicines over the internet. These guidelines require the doctor and patient to have met on at least one occasion, and for the patient to be under the care of that doctor."

Dr Jessamine said that selling prescription medicines directly to consumers was dangerous and ethically and professionally wrong. He said there was a sense of urgency to see the new regulations introduced.

"Usually there is a 28-day period following gazetting of new regulations before they come into force, however Cabinet has waived this to ensure the regulations take immediate effect."

"When medicines are obtained over the Internet, the only contact with a healthcare professional is the pharmacist. In many cases, this contact amounts only to a request or order for medication, and the pharmacist has no or limited opportunity to ascertain that the medication is appropriate for the consumer, or that the consumer has consulted a medical practitioner.

"People who purchase prescription medicines over the internet may be putting themselves at risk of injury or even death, and in our view many of the medicines purchased over the internet are subject to abuse and misuse.

"Medicines are classified as prescription medicines due to the toxicity of the product, and as a result there is a need to have detailed medicinal training and knowledge to diagnose and decide which treatment is the most appropriate medication for the patient.

"Purchasing over the internet bypasses all of these safety barriers which have been put in place to protect the public.

"These new regulations will minimise the risks to health posed by people obtaining prescription medicines without medical supervision."

Dr Jessamine said the move to prevent internet sales of prescription medicines is in line with what is happening internationally.

The regulations will be enforced by the Ministry of Health and will involve checking Internet sites, collaboration with Customs and receipt of reports from overseas regulatory agencies.

END

For more information contact: Selina Gentry, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2483 or 025-277-5411 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html

Background

The Ministry is aware of a growing number of Internet pharmacy sites (at least 30 in New Zealand) that are involved in Internet drug sales to people overseas. The Ministry is continuing to monitor and investigate activities in this area. Where any breaches of legislation are discovered the Ministry would consider prosecutions.

Most countries have laws similar to New Zealand's which strictly control access to prescription medicines by requiring them to be prescribed by a practitioner who has the training to be able to make a diagnosis of a condition, and recommend the appropriate treatment. The laws specifically rule out the possibility of a patient purchasing a prescription medicine without the necessary prescriber's input. A pharmacist is not entitled under the law to sell a prescription medicine to a patient unless the pharmacist receives a prescription written by an authorised prescriber.

The Medical Council of New Zealand has strict guidelines about doctors prescribing medicines over the internet. These guidelines require the doctor and patient to have met on at least one occasion, and for the patient to be under the care of that doctor.

ENDS

Selina Gentry Media Liaison Communications DDI: 496 2483 Fax: 496 2010 mailto:selina_gentry@moh.govt.nz Ministry of Health


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