Importation of prescription medicines into New Zealand: a snapshot of intercepted products
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Objective The aim of this research was to describe the types of prescription medicines being imported into New Zealand. Setting Imported medicines intercepted at the international mail centre in Auckland and referred to the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe) between July and December 2007 were studied. Method During the study 3,918 prescription medicine imports were intercepted and entered into a database by Medsafe. These were categorised according to the country the medicines were posted from and medicine related details such as brand, active ingredient(s), route of administration, strength and quantity imported. Researchers systematically categorised medicines by therapeutic indications, dosage form, whether these medicines were available in New Zealand and if they were subsidised by the New Zealand government. Main outcome measure Types of medicines imported into New Zealand and whether or not they were legally available and subsidised by the government. Results Medicines were most commonly imported from India and China. Seventy eight percent of the total medicines imported were already available in New Zealand, and of these almost half were subsidised by the government. Antibiotics contributed to a significant proportion of the total subsidised medicines imported, the most common being amoxicillin. Four of the five most commonly imported medicines could be considered ‘lifestyle’ medicines (sildenafil, tadalafil, finasteride and sibutramine). ‘High risk’ medicines were identified—for example medicines used in the treatment of tuberculosis, malignant diseases and mental health disorders. Conclusion This study is the first of its kind in New Zealand to explore the types of prescription medicines imported into the country. The majority of imported medicines were classified as ‘lifestyle’ medicines. The study findings also identified possible negative public health implications associated with some of the imported prescription medicines, for example resistance associated with the importation of antibiotics.
KeywordsInternet pharmacies Medicine misuse Medicines importation New Zealand Prescription
We would like to acknowledge the support of staff at Medsafe in providing us with data and feedback on the final draft.
Conflicts of Interests
James Oughton is employed by Medsafe, which provided us with the data for this study. He reports no conflict of interests. The remaining authors note no conflict of interests.
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