Department issues warning over buying animal medicines online

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued a warning over the online purchase of animal medical products online.

In a statement, the authority noted a “significant increase in the number of unauthorised and prescription-only Veterinary Medicinal Products (VMPs) seized by Customs recently”.

The department stressed that the safety of all VMPs in use in the Irish market is of paramount importance and that the regulations in place are there to protect the welfare of all animals.

Highlighting that the purchasing of prescription-only medicines online is illegal under EU law, the department quoted:

A person shall not import, possess, sell or supply an animal remedy, unless there is in force an animal remedies authorisation in respect of the animal remedy.

According to the authority, the majority of the products seized are being shipped to the Irish market from non-EU countries such as Australia, Canada and the US, and are being purchased from sites purporting to be Ireland based, with an “.ie” internet address.

HPRA authorisation

The department stressed that VMPs that are manufactured, packaged and authorised for sale in Ireland, must have the relevant authorisation code(s) issued by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), and/or an EU code issued by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in order to be legal in this country.

If the product is not produced – and that definition includes authorisation codes, packaging/labelling – or licenced for the Irish market then it cannot be imported or used here, it was added.

In terms of online purchasing, the department said:

You can only buy authorised non-prescription VMPs online. The products should have a designated route of sale of licensed merchant or companion animals only.

Non-prescription VMPs can be purchased from websites anywhere within the EU so long as the product being purchased is licenced and authorised for the Irish market.

The onus is on the purchaser to ensure that the product is in compliance with Irish legislation, it was added.

The Department of Agriculture flagged up some key points on the matter to keep in mind.

These include the following:
  • Prescription-only medicines cannot be purchased online;
  • Online shoppers may see similar/same VMPs online; however, if they lack the requisite authorisation codes as set out above, they cannot be imported and used in this country;
  • Any illegal VMP imported and seized by Customs at the point of entry to the state will not be released or returned. These goods and products will be destroyed in accordance with legal requirements.

It was also noted that purchases of certain animal remedies may be made from Irish companies licenced by the Department of Agriculture to retail non-prescription animal remedies over the internet.

Consumers should confirm key details, it was added.

The department warned consumers to look out for the following:
  • A company’s website must have an INT licence number – followed by a county code such as “KE” or “CK” and which is followed by three digits, e.g. INT/KE/989;
  • This INT licence number must be visible on the website;
  • Products should be designated as non-prescription products;
  • Products should have a route of sale of licensed merchant or companion animal medicines only.

You can buy from websites anywhere within the EU so long as the product being purchased is licenced and authorised for the Irish market and not designated as a prescription-only medicine.

If not it will be seized upon entry into the country and you may be liable for fines.