Buying health products online? Know the risks
If you buy health products online, buy them from a reputable website and check that they are authorized for sale by Health Canada. Report suspected illegal health products to Health Canada.
Drugs, natural health products and medical devices that have not been authorized by Health Canada and may pose serious health risks.
As part of Operation Pangea XV — an international effort to disrupt the online sale of counterfeit and other illegal health products around the world—Health Canada is reminding consumers to be careful when buying health products over the Internet. Health products – including drugs, natural health products and medical devices – sold online may seem legitimate and safe, but some may not actually be authorized for sale in Canada and be dangerous to your health. It is important to know how to spot risky websites and products if you are buying health products online.
Unauthorized health products have not been assessed by Health Canada for safety, efficacy and quality and as a result can pose serious risks to your health. For example, they may be expired, mislabeled, subject to recalls, or counterfeit versions of authorized products. Unauthorized drugs or natural health products may have no active ingredients, the wrong ingredients, or dangerous additives such as prescription drugs not listed on the label. Unlicensed medical devices might be low quality, may not work, or may be unsafe.
During this year’s week of action for Operation Pangea, which took place June 23 - 30, 2022, Health Canada inspected 1,666 packages, blocked 964 packages from entering the country, and seized 338 packages at the border containing suspected counterfeit or unauthorized health products. The majority of products seized (99%) were sexual enhancement products (primarily erectile dysfunction medications). The remaining products seized (1%) were weight loss supplements and cognitive enhancement drugs.
Health Canada works with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) during Operation Pangea to stop counterfeit and other illegal health products from reaching the Canadian market and to help raise consumer awareness. 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 planning to buy health products online, read the information Health Canada has posted on the risks of buying drugs, natural health products or medical devices over the Internet.
- Look for health products that have been authorized by Health Canada. Authorized health products have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM). Consumers can also check whether products have been authorized for sale by searching Health Canada's Drug Product Database, Licensed Natural Health Products Database or Medical Devices Active Licence Listing (MDALL).
- Avoid buying health products from questionable or untrustworthy websites. If you have questions about whether an online pharmacy is legitimate, contact the pharmacy regulatory authority in your province or territory. Find out more about choosing a safe online pharmacy.
- Talk to a health care professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, if you have questions or concerns about a health care product.
- Check Health Canada's Recalls and Safety Alerts database for advisories on illegal health products that have been found on the Canadian market. Health Canada maintains a list of certain unauthorized health products that consumers can check regularly for updates.
- Report adverse events or complaints involving medical devices, drugs and other health products, including illegal health products, to Health Canada.
- INTERPOL news release
- Counterfeit prescription drugs
- Buying drugs over the Internet
- Choosing a safe online pharmacy
- How to spot an unsafe online store
- Safe use of body building products
- Adulteration of natural health products
- Buying safe sexual enhancement products
- The safe use of health products for weight loss
Media and public enquiries