Drop in number of illegal sedatives and painkillers seized in first half of this year

Health products regulator warns of risks from buying medication online from unauthorised sources

There has been a significant drop in the number of illegal sedatives and painkillers seized in the first half of this year, according to new figures from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

There were 137,587 units of sedative medicines seized in the first six months of this year, compared with 434,157 units confiscated by authorities during the same period last year.

The number of painkiller pills also dropped from more than 100,000 seized by the HPRA in the first six months of 2021, to 33,542 units this year.

The number of erectile dysfunction pills confiscated fell from 56,878 units up to July last year, to 41,635 pills during the same period this year.


The State health products regulator warned a “substantial amount” of medication and pills were being bought online from unauthorised sources, which posed a risk to people’s health.

However, the number of Covid-19-related medicines confiscated by the watchdog nearly doubled, up from 23,172 units to 43,707 this year.

The HPRA figures, released on Thursday, showed the amount of anabolic steroids seized by authorities remained the same, with 59,764 units of steroids confiscated between January and June this year.

The regulator said it had shut down significantly more websites and social media pages selling unauthorised medicines or products this year. Some 287 websites or social media accounts were shut down or stopped advertising medicines in the six months up to July, compared with 167 in the first half of last year.

Grainne Power, the regulator’s director of compliance, said the drop in the number of unauthorised medicines seized could not be linked to one single factor.

“Although the volume of detentions has decreased, we are still observing significant levels of potent, prescription medicines that are being illegally supplied into Ireland,” she said.

“These levels remain very concerning with so many people prepared to take a chance in ordering prescription medicines online. When you acquire medicines from unregulated sources, you simply have no idea what you are getting,” she said.

Ms Power said there were “very real dangers of significant side effects” from using unauthorised medicines or products.

In total, some 486,088 units of illegal medicines were seized in the first half of this year, compared with 895,591 units confiscated during the first half of 2021.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times