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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018

Over 60,000 units of illegal prescription drugs seized in online crackdown

Body-building steroids accounted for more than half of drugs illegally bought online.

Image: Chris Bellew Fennell Photography

OVER 60,000 UNITS of illegal prescription medicines – including body-building steroids, sedatives and a small number of abortion pills – have been seized during a week-long crackdown on online sales.

Anabolic steroids, which are used for body building, accounted for more than half the drugs seized during the illegal online sales operation, which was carried out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), Revenue’s Customs Service and An Garda Síochána.

The operation was part of Interpol’s worldwide Operation Pangea IX from 30 May to 7 June, which saw 11.1 million drug units seized with a value of over €31 million.

In Ireland, around €350,000 worth of drugs were seized, including 33,000 anabolic steroids, 9,000 erectile dysfunction pills and 6,500 sedatives.

Painkillers, stimulants, weight loss pills and illegal injectable tanning products and 78 units of Misoprostol and Mifepristone – abortion pills – were also discovered.

shutterstock_248787622 Source: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

Ann Marie Horan of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) warned it’s extremely dangerous to buy medicines online, some of which have been previously found to contain toxic ingredients such as rat poison and floor polish.

“The main risk is you don’t know what you’re getting and you could be getting anything,” Horan told

They probably won’t have the exact quantities of the active ingredient, and many won’t have any active ingredient at all. Then there are others that have been found to contain ingredients like rat poison and banned substances that can be extremely harmful.

Even when drugs bought online do contain the correct ingredients, it’s still extremely risky to use them without medical supervision, Horan added.

Anabolic steroids can cause mood swings, liver, kidney and heart damage, Horan said. One of the slimming drugs seized – Sibutramine –  is banned in Ireland after it was linked to a number of deaths in the UK. Sedatives are also addictive and only prescribed in low doses, Horan said.

Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the HPRA, urged the public not to use unverified sources to buy prescription-only and illegal medicines online.

“It’s important for the public to realise that falsified medicines and medical devices pose a very significant risk to their health,” she said.

From tests on some products detained in recent years, many of these medicines contain too much or too little or no active ingredient at all – there are simply no guarantees as to what is contained in the products.
No online pharmacy is authorised to supply prescription medicines into Ireland and members of the public are reminded that, under the law, the supply of prescription medicines by mail order (including the internet) is prohibited. They are putting their health at risk.

During the Irish operation, 67 offending websites were reported, 425 individual packages of medicine were detained by customs, eight search warrants were executed and two arrests were made.

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