Public advisory

Buying your health products on the Internet? Know the risks

Last updated

Summary

Product
Unauthorized health products, including drugs, natural health products and medical devices, sold online.
Issue
Health products - Product safety
Health products - Unauthorized product
Medical devices - Unauthorised device
What to do

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.

Distribution
National

Affected products

Drugs, natural health products, and medical devices that have not been authorized by Health Canada and may pose serious health risks.

Issue

As part of Operation Pangea XVI—an international effort led by INTERPOL 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 sold online may seem legitimate and safe, but some may not actually be authorized for sale in Canada and could be dangerous to your health. It is important to know how to spot risky websites and products if you are buying health products—including drugs, natural health products, and medical devices—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 fake, badly stored, mislabeled, expired, or subject to recalls. 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 Operation Pangea's Week of Action (October 3 – 10, 2023), Health Canada inspected 2,037 packages. Of these, it stopped 1,028 packages from entering the country, and seized 29 additional packages at the border that contained suspected counterfeit or unauthorized health products. The vast majority of the seized products consisted of sexual enhancement medications (72%), followed by weight loss products (14%), hormones (11%) and anti-inflammatory medications (3%).

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 in partnership with CBSA throughout the year to detect and stop unauthorized health products from entering the country.

What you should do

Related links

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
Health Product InfoWatch – Online pharmacies: Marketing of drugs and medical devices

Additional information

Details
Original published date:
Alert / recall type
Public advisory
Category
Health products - Drugs
Health products - Natural health products
Health products - Medical devices
Companies
Published by
Health Canada
Audience
General public
Distribution
National
Identification number
RA-74503
Media and public enquiries

Health Canada
613-957-2983
media@hc-sc.gc.ca

Public Enquiries
613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709
info@hc-sc.gc.ca