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Medsafe targets online sale of counterfeit meds

24 November 2009
Media Release

Medsafe takes part in global operation targeting online sale of counterfeit medicines

Medsafe has taken part in an international week of action which targeted the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines and was coordinated by INTERPOL and the World Health Organization.

Due to an ever-increasing number of websites supplying dangerous and illegal medicines, INTERPOL and the WHO’s International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce coordinated Operation Pangea II involving 25 countries.

During the global operation from 16-20 November 2009, New Zealand Customs detained over 280 packages suspected of containing medicines that entered the country through the International Mail Centre. The detained packages were referred to Medsafe for additional inspection.

“Although the activities last week were part of an international operation, it was business as usual for Customs and Medsafe as intensive detection and inspection are standard practice at the border,” said Mr Derek Fitzgerald, Medsafe’s Manager for Compliance Management.

Mr Fitzgerald said Medsafe’s examination of the packages revealed that a wide range of medicines used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions was being imported.

Although only one of these packages was found to contain a counterfeit product (Cialis, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction), other products of concern to Medsafe were found. These products included performance- and image-enhancing drugs (typically, anabolic steroids), products purporting to be herbal in nature that have been found in the past to contain western medicines, and items without any labelling or packaging that would allow the products to be correctly identified.

Mr Fitzgerald warned the public about the dangers of purchasing medicines on the Internet. “Medicines that had not been evaluated by Medsafe for their quality, safety and efficacy through the New Zealand assessment process could put the health of consumers at risk. Our experience is that medicines purchased on the Internet may be of poor quality, adulterated, counterfeit or manufactured in countries where regulation and compliance with accepted standards is poor,” he cited.

Many of the packages examined were found to contain prescription medicines that can only be obtained in New Zealand following a consultation with an authorised prescriber (usually, a medical practitioner).

Mr Fitzgerald also advised that all intended recipients of packages containing prescription medicines would be contacted by Medsafe to ensure they were legally entitled to receive the products.

Countries involved in Operation Pangea II were: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

ENDS

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