Kiwis warned over buying drugs online

Last updated 12:00 28/05/2014

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Medsafe is warning New Zealanders about the dangers of buying medicines online after almost 250 items were seized by Customs this month.

Customs, in conjunction with Medsafe, seized 248 packages between May 13 and 20 as part of Operation Pangea VII. Interpol led the operation. Items seized in New Zealand were classified as either substandard, illegal or counterfeit.

Medsafe manager compliance management Derek Fitzgerald said buying medication online was risky because quality, safety and effectiveness could not be guaranteed.

People intending to buy prescription medicines via the internet should consult their doctor first, Medsafe warned.

"Consumers who buy online run the risk of purchasing medicines that are inappropriate for them or unknowingly purchasing medicines that are counterfeit, of poor quality or contain dangerous ingredients," Fitzgerald said.

Customs targets all incoming international mail suspected to contain medicines, and thousands of packages are referred to Medsafe each year.

The latest investigation resulted in 50 fewer packages being intercepted than last year.

Parcels came from 32 countries and were stopped because they contained prescription medicines, were not labelled or were known to contain undeclared or hidden ingredients.

It is not yet known what parts of New Zealand the medication was destined for.

The most items intercepted came from India, Switzerland and Britain.

Fitzgerald said medicines for the treatment of erectile dysfunction were the most prevalent products examined by Medsafe. Medication for insomnia, endocrine (gland) disorders, heart disease and cholesterol conditions were the next most prevalent.

Two parcels contained a counterfeit or fake product, with both cases being for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Most prescription medicines detained by Medsafe are held until the importer provides a valid doctor's prescription. If that does not happen, the item is destroyed.

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- Fairfax Media

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