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Be Cautious When Buying Medicines Overseas

Be Cautious When Buying Medicines Overseas

Hong Kong people are traveling overseas in increasing numbers and frequencies, and more and more people will purchase pharmaceutical products or medicines abroad as the price is attractive or they think those products are beneficial to their health. However, most of them may not be aware that medicines should be chosen and used with appropriate medical advice. In addition, the import and sale of pharmaceutical products in Hong Kong are controlled by relevant legislations and some people may have committed an offence without knowing it.

For personal use
Importation of pharmaceutical products is controlled under the Import and Export Ordinance (Cap. 60), and thus must be covered by a licence issued by Department of Health under delegated authority of the Director-General of Trade and Industry Department. However, pharmaceutical products imported in the accompanied personal baggage of a person entering Hong Kong for his or her personal use and in reasonable quantity may be exempted from licensing requirement.

However, products which have not been registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong (the Board) in accordance with the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (PPO, Cap. 138) are potentially harmful as their safety, quality and efficacy cannot be guaranteed. Thereby, you are advised not to purchase pharmaceutical products from doubtful overseas sources.

For sale in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, pharmaceutical products must be registered before they can be sold, including sale over Internet. Any illegal sale of unregistered medicines will contravene the law and is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty is a fine at level 6 of Criminal Procedure Ordinance Cap 221 (HK$100,000) and to imprisonment for 2 years upon conviction.

In addition, even if the products are registered, their sale may be subject to different levels of control.You may have contravened the relevant legislation without the appropriate licences or authorisation in dealing with pharmaceutical products.

Definition of “pharmaceutical product” or “medicine”
According to the PPO, “pharmaceutical product” or “medicine”
(a)means a substance, or combination of substances that —
(i) is presented as having properties for treating or preventing disease in human beings or animals; or
(ii) may be used in or administered to human beings or animals with a view to —
(A) restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action; or
(B) making a medical diagnosis; and
(b)includes an advanced therapy product.
In general, if your product contains a drug substance in its composition, and is in a pharmaceutical dosage form (e.g. tablet, capsule), the product may be classified as a pharmaceutical product. Examples of drug substance include aspirin, paracetamol and sennosides. For more examples, please refer to the “Guidance Notes on Classification of Products as “Pharmaceutical Products” under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Cap. 138)”:

Ends/ Tuesday, 3 August 2021
Issued at HKT 18:00