Illegal online pharmacies a source of fake drugs says Estonian regulators

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Ravimiamet head office in Tartu
Ravimiamet head office in Tartu

Related tags European union Pharmacology

Illegal internet pharmacies and a desire for cheaper meds mean fake drugs are a problem even in smaller pharmaceutical markets say Estonian regulators.

The Estonian pharmaceutical market is small – drug sales generated revenue of €222m ($249m) in 2014 according to EFPIA – and reliant on imports – only 0.26% of medicines sold in the country are produced there according to the State Medicines Agency, Ravimiamet.

Despite being the European Union’s third smallest market – ahead of only Malta and Iceland – Estonia still faces a threat from counterfeit medicines according to Liis Prii, head of Ravimiamet’s department of inspection.

The Estonian medicines market is small and may not be so attractive for counterfeiters, but we also have some people here who would like to buy cheap medicines without a prescription and today internet is the best place for it​” she told this publication.

Imports

The vast majority of the pharmaceuticals sold in Estonia each year – around 98% - are made in the European Union with around 1.6% coming from elsewhere.

Importation is controlled by Ravimiamet and the country’s border police, which monitor drugs brought into and those in transit through the country.

This reliance on drugs from outside Estonia mean the country’s anti-counterfeiting efforts tend to be outward looking according to Prii, who told us that: “The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board deals with cases of manufacturing fake medicines.

The State Agency of Medicines and the Estonian Tax and Customs Board also collect and share information to find out and stop counterfeiting​.”  

Ravimiamet also “makes regular risk-based inspections to all manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies in Estonia​” Prii said, adding that information is shared with “the police in Estonia and responsible authorities in other countries​.”

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