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Many industries now are diversifying and taking advantage of the benefits of doing business online. As a result, it is more convenient for your customers to order online, and you can reach new markets that you may not have been able to previously. Pharmaceuticals and medicinal drugs are no different, and you may want to sell medicine online from your pharmacy. However, this is a highly regulated industry, so you need to ensure you comply with the relevant regulation. Otherwise, you run the risk of major legal penalties. This article will explain whether you can sell medicinal drugs online.

Classifying Your Products

Firstly, whether you can sell medicinal drugs online will depend on:

  • who you are; and
  • the properties of your medicinal drugs.

In New Zealand, the Medicines Act classifies products that have a therapeutic purpose as “therapeutic products”. These then have regulations about how your business deals with them. In particular, a product that has a therapeutic purpose claims to:

  • prevent, diagnose, monitor, treat, alleviate, or cure a disease, injury, ailment, or defect;
  • inhibit, influence, or modify a physiological process;
  • test for pregnancy;
  • investigate, replace, or modify human anatomy;
  • influence, control, or prevent conception; or
  • test the likelihood of a person getting a particular disease or ailment.

Tip: For example, if you sell skincare products that claim to alleviate symptoms of a particular skin disease, then that would classify as a therapeutic purpose.

There are different kinds of therapeutic products, and what kind your medicinal drugs are will determine how you can sell them. These include:

  • medicines;
  • related products; and
  • medical devices.

Tip: Related products are goods that are primarily a food, cosmetic, or oral hygiene product, with a therapeutic purpose as their secondary function.

Therefore, you need to determine what your products classify as under the law and look into what specific regulations or restrictions apply to you.

Selling Medicine

If you sell medicinal drugs, these will likely classify as medicines under New Zealand law. Medicines are any substance or article that:

  • you sell in order to give it to one or more people for a therapeutic purpose; and
  • achieves its primary purpose with the human body through pharmacological, immunological, or metabolic means.

If you use certain active ingredients, such as paracetamol, then your substance will likely be a medicine. There are many different kinds of medicines, which typically fall into one of the three following categories:

  1. pharmacy-only medicines, which you can usually only sell in a pharmacy, hospital, or isolated store with a licence;
  2. prescription medicines that you can only sell to customers with a valid prescription; or
  3. restricted medicines, which customers do not need a prescription for, but only pharmacists can sell them.

For example, there are certain kinds of pain medication you do not need a prescription for, but only pharmacists can sell them due to the nature of their ingredients.

If you want to sell a new medicine, you need approval from Medsafe, and it needs to comply with relevant regulations.

Requirements When Selling Medicinal Drugs Online

You cannot sell the kinds of medicines listed above unless you have authorisation under the Medicines Act to do so. Only pharmacists can supply pharmacy-only medicine, and customers need a prescription to order prescription drugs online. Therefore, if you have the relevant licensing as a pharmacist or other approved entity, then in most cases, you can sell these kinds of medicinal drugs online. You will need to comply with the terms of your licence (and other ethical considerations) whether you operate online or offline.

Ensure that you prominently display certain information about your pharmacy, so that customers know that you are legitimate, including things like:

  • your business name;
  • licence information;
  • your physical address;
  • the name of your Charge Pharmacist; and
  • other essential contact details.

There are certain kinds of medicinal drugs that you should not sell online due to a lack of ability to confirm there is little risk of misuse or dependence. These include drugs with high doses of certain ingredients, such as codeine.

Where Can I Sell Medicinal Drugs Online?

You may sell your products from your own pharmacy website as long as you comply with relevant regulations. If you want to sell your products on an online marketplace, such as TradeMe, you will need to provide evidence of your registration as a licensed pharmacist in New Zealand. This rule applies both if you want to sell pharmacy-only medicines and other kinds, but you cannot sell prescription medicines on TradeMe.

Note that when advertising for your medicinal drugs, your claims need to be factual and accurate. Rely on established science, and do not make claims that you cannot back up. Otherwise, you are misleading your customers, and you can face severe legal penalties.

Key Takeaways

If you want to sell medicinal drugs online, you will need to determine whether the products you want to sell classify as medicines under the Medicines Act. Only pharmacists and other approved entities can sell these, so you will need the relevant licensing and experience. If you would like more information or help with selling your medicinal drugs online, contact LegalVision’s eCommerce lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are medicines?

Under the Medicines Act, medicines are substances or articles that have the primary purpose of providing a therapeutic effect, such as treating an illness.

Can I sell medicinal drugs online?

Depending on the nature of your medicinal drugs, you will only be able to sell medicinal drugs from an on-line pharmacy. You will need details of your legitimacy as a registered pharmacist on your website.

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