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Student sentenced for sale of abortion pills

Student sentenced for sale of abortion pills

A Chinese student who illegally imported and sold abortion-inducing pills over the internet has been sentenced to 20 months imprisonment in what the Ministry of Health understands is the first prosecution of its kind under the Crimes Act.

Jinfeng Zhu, 24, who had also pleaded guilty to a range of charges under the Medicines Act, including selling prescription medicines by retail otherwise than by a pharmacist in a pharmacy and advertising new medicines, appeared for sentence in the Auckland District Court today.

The Crimes Act charge related to the sales by Zhu of particular abortion-inducing medicines in combination, which effectively meant she was supplying the means to procure an abortion.

Zhu was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment on the Crimes Act charge and to concurrent terms of three months imprisonment on each of the seven Medicine Act charges.

The Court heard that Zhu's parents bought the abortion-inducing and contraceptive medicines in their native China and sent them to Zhu to sell in Auckland. Zhu advertised the medicines for sale on the internet. Her diary showed medicine sales made totalling $28,440. A large quantity of unsold medicines were also found in Zhu's apartment.

Medsafe had written to Zhu warning her about unlawful importation of medicines after it discovered certain packages were being sent to Zhu in the course of border surveillance it conducted with Customs.

Derek Fitzgerald, Medsafe's team leader for Compliance, said he was pleased with the investigation of the case and its outcome. The case demonstrated Medsafe had effective processes in place to detect such offending. The sentence imposed by the Court also sent a strong message about the dangers of dealing in these kinds of medicines.

"This is an important case because of the serious side effects of the medicines involved, especially the abortion-inducing medicines. These medicines require a proper medical diagnosis. There may be a significant risk of serious adverse reaction and women may require medical oversight or care after taking them.''

Mr Fitzgerald said Medsafe was not aware of any women having reported suffering adverse events as a result of Zhu's activities.

In April, Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi, issued a warning to women against taking morning after and abortion pills that had been obtained without medical advice and without a prescription, from an unauthorised supplier.

The warning was issued after Medsafe discovered that morning after and abortion pills and oral contraceptives, which were not approved for use in New Zealand had been sold to the public.

Dr Poutasi said women seeking medical advice about pregnancy should talk to a doctor, pharmacist or authorised prescriber, especially in relation to medication.

"It is important that women do not take morning after pills, oral contraceptives or abortion medicines that have not been approved for use in New Zealand or are supplied without a prescription or consultation with an accredited healthcare professional.''

Medicines quality, safety and effectiveness cannot be assured unless they are approved for use in New Zealand and are supplied through an authorised supplier or distributor.

Under the law, access to medicines is restricted to protect consumers from the risks medicines can pose if they are not used appropriately or on medical advice. In New Zealand it is illegal to be in possession of a prescription-only medicine without first having obtained a prescription.

Anyone who has taken a contraceptive medicine, morning after or abortion-inducing pill from a source other than a medical practitioner, pharmacist or authorised supplier and has health concerns should seek advice immediately from a health practitioner.


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