Number of steroid seizures trebled last year

Seizures of illegal anabolic steroids almost trebled last year, it has emerged.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority seized 109,006 of the substances last year, compared to 38,049 in 2015.

Some adults and teens use the illegal drugs as they want to improve how well they play sports or how they look.

The HPRA director of compliance, John Lynch, said anabolic steroids accounted for 16% of products detained last year, a “significant” increase compared to 2015.

“The misuse of anabolic steroids has been linked to a range of significant side effects including blood clots, headaches, depression, irritability, and stomach pain,” he said.

“People are sourcing these products for purposes of performance enhancement and are either unaware of, or ignoring, the significant dangers posed by these prescription medicines in the absence of supervision.”

Last year, the authority’s enforcement section seized 673,906 dosage units of falsified and other illegal medicines, compared to 1.1m units in 2015.

The drugs include sedatives (40%) and erectile dysfunction medicines (14%), as well as anabolic steroids.

The authority said the “welcome” year-on-year decrease in all drugs seized could be partly attributed to efforts to combat the illegal supply of sedatives.

Mr Lynch said that there was a continuing inter-agency approach, nationally and internationally, to tackling the illegal supply of sedatives, particularly the prescription medicine Zopiclone.

“Notwithstanding this, our figures show that working with our colleagues from the Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, we detained on average more than 1,800 dosage units of illegal medicines per day during 2016,” he said.

The HPRA said those behind the websites supplying the products were engaged in illegal activity.

Mr Lynch said the authority was very concerned that people are sourcing medicines from unknown and potentially untrustworthy sources. 

There was “absolutely no guarantee” that the drugs contained the type or quantity of active substance claimed, he said.

“In some cases, they can contain different substances altogether. They can be very dangerous to human health.

“We emphasise that while some sites may appear legitimate, they are too often a front for illegal activity.”

The HPRA is also responsible for prosecuting cases where it believes there is a significant risk to public health.

Last year, six prosecution cases got under way, and there were 13 voluntary formal cautions issued.

The cases related to the supply of products including slimming medicines, anabolic steroids, and erectile dysfunction drugs.

The authority works with other regulatory and law enforcement agencies worldwide in combatting the illegal manufacture, importation and distribution of medicines, medical devices, cosmetics, and other health products.


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