Erectile problem pills: popular

HAIR growth pills, erectile dysfunction treatment and hormone medication were amongst the most common types of prescription medication seized by customs officers in Ireland last year.

In the wake of a damning report on Ireland's usage of dubious internet medication, figures obtained by the Sunday Tribune show that Revenue seized nearly a quarter of a million tablets of illicit medicines.

Last week, a survey by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) found that around 2% of Irish adults buy prescription medication online, a worrying trend given that a high volume of such products are thought to be counterfeit.

In February, the drug company Pfizer launched a report that claimed around €86m is spent on such medications by Irish people annually.

According to Revenue, the principal types of products detected and seized coming in and out of Ireland every year are erectile dysfunction treatments, medication for hair-loss, diet pills, sedatives such as Valium and Diazepam and hormone products including steroids.

A total of 712,492 tablets were seized by officials in addition to 4.6 litres of various medicines.

"All prescription medication is taken. The only circumstances under which it can be taken in or out of Ireland is if there is someone carrying a prescription – someone who actually needs it," a spokeswoman said.

"Everything that is posted is seized. The large companies who bring the stuff in have importation licences so that would be a separate thing altogether."

Airports and postage depots are the traditional sites where such illicit material is captured by officials.

According to research by the IMB, most people who buy illegal medication over the internet do so for privacy and convenience, as evidenced by the type of products traditionally seized.

And this statistic is in spite of the fact that the IMB has consistently warned that those medications bought online are "as likely as not to be counterfeit".

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, claimed earlier this year that Ireland now has the sixth highest level of activity in this area within Europe.

And going further than the IMB, the company said as much as 90% of medicines bought online are fake or may contain little or none of the active ingredients required to treat conditions.