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The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) recently released its annual enforcement data, which shows that it detained some 940,000 dosage units* of falsified and other illegal medicines in 2022. Announcing the figures, the HPRA warned of the serious health dangers posed by sourcing prescription medicines online and from unauthorised sources. It stated that the supply of these products into and within Ireland is illegal and stressed that consumers can have no guarantees about the safety or quality of prescription medicines they are seeking to buy outside of the regulated pharmacy setting.

In the 12 months of 2022, the most significant categories of illegal products detained included sedatives (26 per cent), anabolic steroids (22 per cent), erectile dysfunction medicines (9 per cent), analgesics (7 per cent), and stimulants (5 per cent). The breakdown is:

  • Sedative medicines – 247,737 units detained.
  • Anabolic steroids – 207,220 units detained.
  • Erectile dysfunction – 84,038 units detained.
  • Analgesic medicines – 63,776 units detained.
  • Stimulants – 46,547 units detained.
  • 639 websites, e-commerce listings and/or social media pages amended or shut down.
  • 7 voluntary formal cautions issued and one prosecution case initiated relating to the importation or distribution of anabolic steroids.

According to Ms Grainne Power, Director of Compliance with the HPRA, the 2022 figures highlight again the risks people are taking when attempting to purchase prescription medicines online.

“In the last two years alone — 2021 and 2022 — over two-and-a-half million units of illegal prescription medicines from unauthorised sources have been detained nationally. We know from our investigations that those who supply these illicit medicines are solely concerned with making a profit and have no regard for the health of the consumers who are the end users,” said Ms Power.

The HPRA stressed that people in Ireland should only obtain their medicines through recognised and regulated sources. This way they know they are getting products that can be both relied upon to contain the right ingredients and that are tailored to their specific needs under the supervision of a doctor or pharmacist.

The HPRA works in close co-operation with colleagues from An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service, with whom there is significant inter-agency collaboration to combat the illegal supply of health products into and within Ireland. It also co-operates and shares intelligence with other regulatory and law enforcement agencies across Europe and worldwide to prevent the illegal manufacture, importation and distribution of medicines, medical devices, and cosmetics.

Ms Power concluded that every single one of the 940,000 tablets, capsules and vials intercepted during 2022 was important in protecting consumer health.