>The number of weight loss drugs detained by the authorities after being bought online by Irish consumers increased by almost 500 per cent last year, the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) has said.

It said there had been a 66 per cent increase in the amount of illegal medicinal products detained during 2010 with steroids, sedatives, drugs claiming to aid weight loss and drugs aimed at combating erectile dysfunction being the most commonly impounded.

All told, the IMB’s enforcement section confiscated 822,484 dosage units of counterfeit and illegal medicines last year compared with 494,502 units in 2009. Its enforcement officers, in conjunction with Revenue and Garda officials, detained 680,958 tablets/capsules; 1,665 packs of liquids; 933 packs of creams and 138,928 dosage units of assorted products deemed to be illegal medicinal products.

The IMB said it was particularly concerned the increase in the number of illegal weight loss products detected. It said that some of which when tested were found to contain the no longer permitted active substance sibutramine which can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Chief executive Pat O’Mahony said the majority of illegal unauthorised medicinal products coming into Ireland were found to have originated in India and he emphasised the dangers of buying medicines online and urged consumers not to risk their health by using unapproved or unauthorised medicines.

Mr O’Mahony said there was “absolutely no way for people to establish whether medicines available on the internet contain what they claim to or if they are in any way effective in treating the illness or condition in question”.

He said some of the medicines impounded had been shown to contain too little or too much of the active ingredient while others contain the wrong active ingredient altogether. “At best people are wasting their money but more seriously; at worst counterfeit and illegal medicines can pose a serious health risk. The supply of prescription only medicines via the internet is illegal and no online pharmacy is authorised to operate in Ireland.”

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