State to Tighten Regulations on Mail Order Medicines

Photo: Postimees/Scanpix
1/10/2012 9:56 AM
Category: Society

At a time when Estonia's consumers want the convenience of ordering medications online from abroad, Estonian customs officials are spotlighting an increasing number of illegal drug imports - nearly 1,300 last year alone.

To address this issue, policymakers at the Social Affairs Ministry are working on a new drug law with more precise guidelines about the purchase of medicinal products through the internet and setting up domestic "e-pharmacies."

Government officials hope this will help to curb illicit drug imports.

Gerd Klaasen of the State Agency of Medicines said customs statistics definitely show a spike in drug imports from abroad.

"A lot of supplements that qualify as medicines have been ordered," said Klaasen. "People tend to believe in alternative medicine and natural products. The packaging will say that it is a herbal product, but it actually contains a therapeutic substance, sometimes in dangerous quantities."

He added that this is why Estonia and many European countries restrict the purchase of drugs over the internet, despite the lower costs and convenience. 
 
After all, Klaasen explained, there is no way to determine, without running lab tests, whether these products contain the correct amount of a medical substance, or whether the product is bogus medicine.

Similarly, Finnish customs officials uncovered 3,300 illegal drug shipments last year. Some of the seized medicines contained rat poison. 

Kadri Tammepuu, a board member with pharmaceutical company Magnum Medical, said that the prospect of making drugs available through regulated e-pharmacies would most probably reduce illicit drug imports.
 

Andres Kahar

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