Close to 900,000 units of illegal medicines detained by HPRA in 2023

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

874,945 dosage units (i.e. individual tablets, capsules, vials, etc) of falsified and other illegal medicines were detained in 2023, according to the annual enforcement data released by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

Announcing the figures, the HPRA warned of the serious health dangers posed by sourcing prescription medicines online and from unauthorised sources. It states that the supply of these products into and within Ireland is illegal and stresses that consumers can have no guarantees about the safety or quality of prescription medicines they are seeking to buy outside of the regulated pharmacy setting.

In the 12 months of 2023, the most significant categories of illegal products detained included sedatives (34%), anabolic steroids (29%), erectile dysfunction medicines (10%), analgesics (5%) and stimulants (3%). The overall figure is a slight reduction on 2022 (939,388).

The HPRA also continues to monitor online activity promoting prescription medicines and other substances, and routinely intervenes to disrupt this promotion. Such activity is often linked to the use of particular substances for aesthetic and body image purposes.

The following are some of the key enforcement actions taken by the HPRA in 2023: Two prosecution cases initiated, relating to the importation or distribution of anabolic steroids; also, 2,348 websites, e-commerce listings and/or social media pages amended or shutdown.


Grainne Power, Director of Compliance with the HPRA, expressed concern that the 2023 data continue to highlight the risks that individuals take when attempting to purchase prescription medicines from unauthorised suppliers.

“If you are sourcing prescription medicines outside of a registered pharmacy and without medical supervision, you are putting your health at risk. Prescription medicines purchased through online or unauthorised channels are unregulated and are circulating outside of the legal supply chain. As a result, we have no idea what they contain. It is possible that they are fake or counterfeit and falsely labelled, if indeed they are labelled at all. These products could cause serious side effects and they present a very real danger to health”.


According to Ms Power, there appears to be a willingness among some consumers to take risks in sourcing falsified medicines and unauthorised substances for what would be considered aesthetic and body image purposes. 

“Whether for privacy, ease of access, cost, or simply aware that their doctor may not deem it appropriate medical use, many choose to seek out these products online and from other unregulated sources. In addition to anabolic steroids, we are also seeing a concerning upward trend in detentions of Melanotan 2, an unregulated substance promoted as a self-tanning aid, as well as botulinum toxin and online semaglutide and liraglutide products”.

She continued, “It is simply never worth taking a risk when it comes to your health. We urge anyone who has purchased prescription medicines from unregulated sources to stop using them immediately, and to contact their healthcare professional if they have any concerns about their health,” she concluded.


The HPRA, who work in close co-operation with colleagues from An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service, has published information on its website ( about the dangers involved.

The HPRA welcomes reports of suspicious activities linked to the supply of medicines and other health products. Anyone can report in confidence to the HPRA at or at 01 6343871.