The problem of the misuse of prescription drugs has been recognised at national, European and international levels. Through the framework of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016, the Department of Health is working in collaboration with the relevant statutory agencies to monitor the availability of controlled drugs, including prescription medicines, through illicit channels.
Under the Medicinal Products (Prescription and Control of Supply) Regulations, it is prohibited for a person to supply a prescription medicine except in accordance with a prescription, and the supply must be made from a registered pharmacy by or under the personal supervision of a registered pharmacist. A person who contravenes these Regulations is guilty of an offence.
The Revenue Commissioner's Customs Service and the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) have shared competency in relation to the prevention and detection at importation of illicit medicines. In addition the IMB and the Customs Service have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under which both organisations work closely to detain and prohibit prescription medicines purchased on-line from being imported.
The IMB and the Customs Service deploy operational resources in a targeted and risk-based manner and as a result of specific intelligence. These approaches are reviewed and adjusted based on analysis and evaluation of national and international seizure trends, traffic frequency, routes and other risk indicators.
Revenue's Customs Service also has Memoranda of Understanding with a number of express mail courier service providers and work very closely with these companies, the IMB and the Gardaí to combat the importation of illicit medicines.
In September 2012 the IMB, Revenue Customs Services and An Garda Síochána took part in an international week long operation ‘Pangea V’ which led to the detention of capsules and tablets with an estimated value in excess of €375,000.
The IMB has published an on-line leaflet warning of the dangers from purchasing medicines online.
The enforcement of the law relating to the sale of drugs, including prescription drugs, continues to be a priority in the Government’s commitment to tackling the issue of drug misuse in this jurisdiction.
My Department is reviewing the Misuse of Drugs Regulations with a view to introducing additional controls on certain prescription drugs being traded illicitly, for example benzodiazepine medicines. These additional controls include introducing import and export controls as well as an offence of possession, thereby assisting the law enforcement roles of Customs and of the Garda Síochána.