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Guilty plea in medicines case

Media Release

October 9, 2006

Guilty plea in medicines case - Ministry

IT Pharmaceutical Supplies Ltd (ITP) has pleaded guilty to six charges under the Medicines Act in a case brought by the Ministry of Health's business unit Medsafe.

The case was heard this afternoon in the Manukau District Court, with the company fined a total of $9000, plus costs of $6000 and court costs of $780.

ITP came to Medsafe's attention after New Zealand Customs seized a consignment of medicines en route to Vanuatu. Following an investigation the Ministry concluded that ITP was sourcing medicines from overseas companies in Germany, Turkey and England and then selling them to purchasers in Vanuatu for on-sale over the internet.

The medicines involved were "new medicines" and had not been approved for sale in New Zealand by the Minister of Health, as required under the Medicines Act. The Ministry says that the sale of medicines without this consent from New Zealand is an offence.

Medsafe's Team Leader of Compliance Derek Fitzgerald has welcomed the guilty plea saying that the Medicines Act is designed to protect public health and safety by ensuring consumers receive medicines that are safe, effective and of acceptable quality.

ITP has agreed to no longer sell or distribute medicines, either in New Zealand or from New Zealand, unless those medicines have Ministerial consent.

"If a medicine distributed within or from New Zealand does not have Ministerial consent and has not been evaluated by Medsafe, there is no guarantee that the medicine is safe to use, or that the medicine actually contains what it says on the label".

Even though these medicines were unlikely to be sold to local consumers, Mr Fitzgerald said New Zealand was a responsible member of the international community, and should act to deter residents from selling medicines to overseas purchasers if these sales breached the Medicines Act.

"It appears the medicines concerned in this case were destined for supply to consumers around the world via internet sale," Mr Fitzgerald said.

Medsafe is concerned about the supply of prescription medicines without prescriptions via internet sale as it considers there are real dangers for consumers in this practice, he said.

"New Zealand has a good reputation when it comes to the international distribution of medicines. Companies who use New Zealand as a port of call before selling medicines over the internet are taking advantage of this reputation and are in danger of eroding it if this becomes an established practice," Mr Fitzgerald said.


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