The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has warned the public of possible fake drugs being sold over the internet and by mail order.
A dozen websites offering fake prescription medicines have been closed down after IMB action. But only websites registered here are under its control.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that up to half of medicines sold on the internet are fake, unsafe or of poor quality.
Pat O’Mahony, chief executive of the IMB, said better co-operation between international regulatory agencies was needed to clamp down on illicit products and providers.
Mr O’Mahony was speaking at the annual conference of the Irish Healthcare Pharmaceutical Association (IPHCA).
He said people might not be fully aware of the risks of counterfeit medicine. Consumers were misled into thinking they might be purchasing an effective medicine. “At best, they are purchasing a product that won’t work. At worst they are purchasing a product containing a substance other than the specified active ingredient, which could damage their health,” Mr O’Mahony said.
However he said the IMB was not aware of any fake medicines being sold in what he called ‘legitimate supply channels’.
The Irish Medicines Board is already working continually with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Medicines Healthcare and products Regulatory Agency in the UK. Ireland also belongs to the European Medicines Agency.
An improved system of rapid communication was needed to crack down on the marketing of counterfeit medicines, Mr O’Mahony said.
Ireland will host the second International Summit of Regulatory Agencies on December 5 in Dublin. This will discuss common global issues including the threat of counterfeit medicines, how clinical trials are carried out, and the development of efficient systems of information sharing.