More than 1.6m units of illegal medicines like sedatives and erectile dysfunction medications were detained in 2020, a sharp increase on previous figures, which the State said is “very concerning”.
The inflated statistics represent a 58% increase on the number of doses seized in 2019, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said.
Some 583,805 units of sedative medication and 484,846 doses of erectile dysfunction drugs were seized, with 370,000 tablets of the latter detained in one seizure alone, the HPRA said.
Other examples of illegal medications seized included anabolic steroids, analgesic medicines, and 56,876 doses of Covid-19 medicines.
A further 103,000 dosages had been seized in the past week alone, the HPRA said, as part of Operation Pangea, a joint Interpol-co-ordinated week of action targeting the online sale of falsified and illegal medicines.
The authority stressed that customers using such illegal medicines “can have no guarantees” about their safety or quality.
A spokesperson reminded the public, “for their own safety, to only purchase medicines from authorised Irish sources”.
HPRA chief executive Dr Lorraine Nolan described the year-on-year increase in the time of Covid-19 as being “very concerning”.
She said that given the internet’s ubiquity as an outlet for online purchases “people may not realise that sourcing prescription medicines online is illegal and that the sources behind these sites can be bogus, or worse, criminal networks”.
She said the HPRA is also “seriously concerned” that consumers may not be aware of the “significant health risks” associated with the consumption of such medicines.
“We know from our investigations and prosecutions that those who seek to profit from illegal medicines have little regard for the health of the end-users of the medicines they are supplying,” Dr Nolan said.
“Our detentions over many years have identified that a significant proportion of these products are falsely labelled and do not contain the type or quantity of active ingredient as stated on the product information."