Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency

31st Mar 2020

With the growth of the internet a wide variety of goods and services are available on line that would otherwise be difficult or expensive to get hold off. One particular area that has seen significant expansion is the availability of drugs that would have otherwise only been available on prescription. And now with Covid-19, we have been asked to advise on the importation of materials such as sanitisers that potentially will help the population.

NHS Continuing Healthcare

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency regulates the importation of all drugs into the UK, as any medicine purchased outside the regulated supply chain cannot be guaranteed to meet standards of quality, safety and effectiveness meaning they can present a real risk to public health. Some may contain dangerous ingredients which can have devastating consequences for patients who use them.

It is obviously very important that illegal imports are policed very closely to ensure that people don’t unsuspectingly purchase drugs that may do them harm, or think they are saving money by buying on line from unverified sources.

You might be surprised to find you can legally buy many drugs online in the UK, and that’s because although their purchase requires a consultation with a doctor, this meeting does not need to be face to face. An online consultation might be sufficient.

There are examples of people innocently ordering medicines from US websites on the advice of a doctor, only to receive a Notice of Seizure from Border Force stating it was a controlled drug and was liable to forfeit.

A couple had been undergoing costly, private IVF Treatment and there doctor had advised them to obtain a supplement on line that would help the process and would also be cheaper than buying in the UK.

On investigation it transpired that the medicine was perfectly legal to buy for personal use in the UK, but Border Force had interpreted the guidelines based on it being an unlicensed drug in the UK.

This illustrates what a complicated area this is with many grey areas and pitfalls.

We continue to be contacted by both individuals and companies who have had valuable goods confiscated by UK Border Force and face prosecution by the The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency and HMRC.

If you need to discuss concerns on importation and licenses, or have any issues in relation to HMRC, MRHA or UK Border Force you can contact me at or on 01603 675639.