Be informed: know the potential risks of buying health products online

Starting date:
June 8, 2021
Type of communication:
Advisory
Subcategory:
Drugs, Medical Device, Natural health products
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Identification number:
RA-75761

Last updated:

Summary

  • Product: Health products not authorized for sale in Canada.
  • Issue: The dangers of buying unauthorized health products sold online.
  • What to do: If you choose to buy health products online, make sure to buy them from a reputable website and that they are authorized for sale by Health Canada.

Issue

Many websites that sell health products are lawful businesses, but some sell health products that pose serious health risks. As part of Operation Pangea XIV - an international effort to disrupt the online sale of counterfeit and other illegal health products around the world-Health Canada is reminding Canadians of the dangers of buying unauthorized health products online.

Some drugs and natural health products sold online may appear to be legitimate and safe, but may not be authorized for sale in Canada. The products may be expired, mislabeled, subject to recalls, counterfeit versions of authorized products, or they may have no active ingredients, the wrong ingredients, or dangerous additives such as prescription drugs not listed on the label. Consumers should also be cautious of buying unlicensed medical devices over the Internet, as some may be low quality, may not work, or may be unsafe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the risk of illegal sales of substandard and counterfeit health products worldwide. Due to the unprecedented demand and urgent need for health products and personal protective equipment (PPE)(such as respirators, gloves and face shields) to help limit the spread of COVID-19, more consumers may be turning to online retailers for access to these products, making them vulnerable to purchasing low quality, ineffective and even dangerous products.

As part of this international effort, Health Canada works with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to stop counterfeit and other illegal health products from reaching the Canadian market, and to help raise consumer awareness.

During Operation Pangea XIV's week of action, which took place May 18 to 25, 2021, Health Canada inspected 2,076 packages, refused 867 packages from entering the country, and seized 228 packages at the border containing suspected counterfeit or unauthorized health products. The majority of products seized (238 of 244, or 97.5%) were sexual enhancement products (primarily erectile dysfunction medications). Other products included antibiotics, painkillers, and bodybuilding supplements. Although Health Canada did not seize products related to COVID-19 during this week of action, the Department remains alert to the heightened risk, takes action when illegal products related to COVID-19 are identified, and continues to remind Canadians to be vigilant.

Health Canada works throughout the year to detect and stop unauthorized health products from entering the country, including working in partnership with CBSA to help prevent further importation of these products.

What you should do

If you are considering buying health products online, read the information Health Canada has posted on the risks of buying drugsnatural health products or medical devices over the Internet.

If you decide to buy health products over the Internet, it is important to know the risks and to stay protected:

Related links

Related COVID-19 health product advisories

Media Inquiries:
Health Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

Public Enquiries:
613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709
hcinfo.infosc@canada.ca