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Sentence for medicines sale without prescriptions

Media Release

9 June 2006

Man sentenced for retail sales of medicines without prescriptions

The successful prosecution of an Onehunga man under the Medicines Act sends a strong message that supplying prescription medicines to the public without a valid prescription is illegal, the Ministry of Health says.

Graeme David Heard, 69, who last year pleaded guilty to 29 charges of selling prescription medicines without a prescription, has been sentenced to 200 hours community service in relation to the charges in the Auckland District Court today after a hearing on disputed facts.

Heard has previous convictions for similar offences under the Medicines Act. Financial gain appears to have motivated his scheme.

The scheme involved Heard accessing orders for prescription medicines from a Canadian website, which were forwarded on to a New Zealand pharmacy. The orders were supplemented by prescriptions bearing a forged New Zealand doctor's signature. The medicines were then collected from the pharmacy by Heard and couriered to consumers overseas.

The medicines included lipid-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) which reduces blood fat levels; COX II inhibitor anti-inflammatory drugs including valdecoxib (Bextra), rofecoxib (Vioxx) and celecoxib (Celebrex); the rheumatoid arthritis drug leflunomide (Arava); and drugs for lowering blood pressure containing nifedipine (Adalat Oris), amlodipine (Norvasc) and quinapril (Accupril).
The Ministry of Health Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, Medsafe, says increased risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as liver, bone marrow and muscle damage, are among the potential adverse reactions associated with some of the medicines.

Medsafe's spokesperson, Rob Allman, says the reason that medicines are classified as prescription only is because of the relatively high potential health risks associated with medicines in this classification. The prescription only classification serves to ensure that consumers get individual diagnosis and advice from a suitably qualified health professional about their health concerns. The risks and benefits of the use of a particular medicine for the consumer can then be properly assessed by the professional before the medicine is taken.

ENDS

Heard has previously been prosecuted and found guilty under the Medicines Act, Insolvency Act and the Crimes Act for offences involving the labeling, importation and sale of new medicines into New Zealand and carrying on business while he was bankrupt.

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