Sweden: The Medical Products Agency (MPA) scans the internet for illegal trade of medicine

16 October 2008

Sara Ulfsdotter, Sara Thomas

Illegal medicines sold on the internet pose a number of health risks. For example, they can contain other active substances than those indicated on the packaging or be without the indicated active substance altogether. Further, as the illegal trade of medicines on the internet is for self-treatment, it encourages the public not to consult healthcare professionals. Another problem is that someone injured by an illegal medicine is not entitled to any compensation from the Pharmaceutical Insurance (Swe; Läkemedelsförsäkringen). Slimming, potency, and anti-smoking medicines are the most popular “medicines” sold illegally on the internet.

The Government has given the MPA the task of launching a campaign in 2008 to inform consumers of the risks posed by illegal medicines. To prepare for the campaign and map out the illegal trade of medicines, the MPA has made a search of Swedish-language websites where medicines are sold illegally or information on how to buy medicines on the internet is shared. Through various search engines, the MPA has identified a number of internet-based ‘pharmacies’. Of the 51 different websites found in the search, some had already been reported to the police but the MPA will now take action in respect of the others, such as referring them to the police or issuing a penalty fine. As it is illegal to market prescription-only human medicines, both the actual sales of “medicines” but also the un-authorised marketing of them on the internet is illegal and contrary to the Marketing Act.

As internet trade is by nature a worldwide activity, the MPA will also co-operate with Swedish, Nordic and other international bodies to combat the illegal trade in medicines.

To find out more about the campaign, please see the Swedish MPA’s website at http://www.lakemedelsverket.se/Tpl/NewsPage____7368.aspx.