New Zealand part of cross-border medicine control operation
18 June 2015
Medsafe says New Zealanders who choose to buy medicines online from overseas are continuing to run risks from
substandard, illegal, or counterfeit medicines.
The authority has again been part of a joint local and international operation with Customs on such items crossing the
Medsafe Manager of Compliance Management, Derek Fitzgerald, says medicines purchased online are risky because quality,
safety and effectiveness can’t be guaranteed.
Medsafe and Customs participated in the week-long Operation PANGEA VIII International Internet Week of Action led by
INTERPOL (June 9–16) which feeds data from the ongoing New Zealand border control programme into the worldwide effort
aimed at detecting illegal trade in medicines. Operation PANGEA seeks to disrupt criminal networks trading in illicit,
counterfeit and poor quality medicines through working with international and national enforcement bodies and with
internet and payment system providers. This is the eighth time New Zealand authorities have participated.
Customs targets all incoming international mail suspected to contain medicines, and thousands of interceptions are
referred to Medsafe each year.
As a result of Operation PANGEA VIII, 181 packages were held requiring further investigation, 67 less than the number
investigated last year (248).
These parcels originated from 29 different countries around the world (32 last year) and were stopped because they
contained prescription medicines, weren’t labelled or were known to contain undeclared or hidden ingredients. The most
common sources of these products were India (103), United States (24) and China (20).
Mr Fitzgerald says medicines for the treatment of erectile dysfunction were the most prevalent products examined by
Medsafe (amounting to 3412 individual tablets). Medicines for insomnia, treatment of infections, mental health and pain
were the next most prevalent. Only four parcels contained a counterfeit or fake product (medicines for the treatment of
erectile dysfunction) – two more than last year.
Medsafe strongly encourages anyone intending to buy prescription medicines via the internet to consult their doctor who
can advise on potential side effects, interactions with other medicines and appropriate dosage.
‘Prescription medicines are potent substances and as such should only be used following a consultation with a doctor.
‘Consumers considering buying any type of medicine over the internet should be aware that, even though a website may
appear to be legitimate, appear to be established in a well-regulated country and appears to be offering well-known
medicines, these impressions may not be true,’ according to Mr Fitzgerald.
Prescription medicines are referred to Medsafe by Customs to ensure compliance with New Zealand law. Most prescription
medicines Medsafe detains are held until the person importing them provides a valid doctor’s prescription – if this does
not occur they are destroyed.