Crackdown needed on questionable online medicines
Unregulated online sales of products containing controlled medicines must be curbed in the name of consumer safety, warns the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS).
Under Sections 13 and 21 of the Poisons Act 1952, it is illegal for anyone other than a licenced pharmacist/medical practitioner to sell or supply any Group B scheduled poison without a valid prescription. First-time offenders may receive a fine of up to RM 3000 or 1 year’s imprisonment.
Yet, according to the MPS, preparations containing scheduled Group B poisons such as tadalafil and isotretinoin are available for purchase on multiple internet platforms, often without needing a verified prescription. Other controlled medicines available from those platforms include numerous Group C items such as cough medicines and antihistamines.
“Medicines should only be sold by a licensed pharmacist with a valid prescription, or dispensed by a medical practitioner for treatment purposes for their own patients only,” said Tuan Haji Amrahi, president of the MPS. “[We have received] numerous complaints from MPS members and the general public alike as the question of authenticity of online medication is raised. […] Chances are these medicines have been tampered or tainted with impurities and microorganisms which pose as a serious threat to the consumer’s health.”
The presence of controlled substances even in unregistered herbal products sold on the market was highlighted in a recent chemical analysis of 51 samples thereof seized by Malaysian law enforcement. While the product packaging claimed that the contents consisted only of natural ingredients, synthetic PDE-5 inhibitors such as sildenafil and tadalafil were isolated from some products in concentrations of up to 85.49 mg/g (tadalafil) and 275.6 mg/g (sildenafil). [Der Pharma Chem 2013;5(2):278–285]
According to Amrahi, consumers should be encouraged to buy from community pharmacies as their products were unlikely to be counterfeited. Members of the public experiencing adverse effects from medicines purchased online could be directed to make a report with the NPRA’s online channels.
“Pharmacists should also report to the authorities [and the MPS] if [unregulated products] are found in social media,” he added.
In 2016, it was reported that a total of 1396 raids were conducted by the Pharmacy Enforcement Department under the Ministry of Health, with 1329 cases prosecuted in court and illegal products worth up to RM 47.8 million confiscated.
To report websites offering medicines without prescription, you may contact:
Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society: firstname.lastname@example.org | (03) 8079 1861
NPRA Product Complaint Unit: http://npra.moh.gov.my/index.php/adr-reporting | (03) 7883 5549
Pharmacy Enforcement Division Branch Offices by state: