Websites selling over-the-counter medicines in Ireland now have to display an EU logo to show that the drugs are safe and effective.
Internet sellers of non-prescription medicines in Ireland must apply to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland to be included on the regulator’s list of registered suppliers.
Kathleen Lynch, the primary care minister, has urged people to look for the EU logo first to avoid buying fake medicine. “Many internet sites that supply medicines hide their true identity and location to deceive people. Criminals are often behind the operation of these websites,” she said.
It was only by clicking on the logo that people could ensure that the website had been included on one of the national lists of authorised suppliers, she pointed out.
Ms Lynch said Irish consumers can buy non-prescription medicines from a website registered in another EU state. “The important thing is to check that the pharmacy or retailer is registered in the member state in question before making a purchase,” she said.
Ms Lynch said the World Health Organisation believes that half of medicines sold by unregulated online retailers are potentially harmful.
“Often the fake medicine doesn’t contain the active ingredient that is needed to make the medicine work, or it contains the wrong dose,” she said.
“The substances that are used to bulk up the medicine can also be harmful.”
Announcement of new EU internet logo and rules for online supply of medicines http://t.co/B3SM7HNMLg— Kathleen Lynch (@KathleenLynch05) July 1, 2015
Under Irish law, the sale of prescription-only medicines by mail order, including the internet, is prohibited.
No online pharmacies are authorised in Ireland to supply prescription medicines.
A young man died recently after taking an illegal slimming product, raising concerns that bogus websites can be very sophisticated and appear to be legitimate.
Last month illegal prescription medicines worth €430,000 were seized in Ireland as part of a global operation across 115 countries.
Most of the medicines seized were sedatives, but they also included anabolic steroids and medicines for erectile dysfunction and weight loss.
The week-long operation from June 9-16 investigated eight websites operating in Ireland, including five that were Irish-based.
Almost 500 packages were confiscated at mail hubs nationwide.
Suppliers in other EU countries can import non-prescription medicines into Ireland as long as they have been authorised for use by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.
The EU websites must also display the EU common logo but it will display the flag of the country in which it is established and will direct people to the supplier list in that EU country.
The new regulatory system will be overseen by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and Department of Health.
Pharmaceutical Society registrar Marita Kinsella said the objective is to prevent fake medicines that are unreliable and potentially harmful from reaching consumers and patients.
The society has already received applications from retailers that will be included on the regulator’s internet supply list. The list can be viewed by the public on thepsi.ie.
The new regulations and the establishment of the internet supply list are the result of the EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive to address the problem of the growing availability of fake medicines.
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