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According to figures from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), over 650,000 dosage units of falsified and other illegal medicines bought over the Internet were detained coming into Ireland in 2016.In a bid to tackle this issue, a not-for-profit organisation, the Irish Medicines Verification Organisation (IMVO), has been established by those central in the medicines supply chain in Ireland; pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, parallel distributors, and community pharmacists. Although there have been no reports of falsified medicines being distributed through legitimate channels in Ireland to date, eight cases were detected in the UK between 2011 and 2015.

Under new EU legislation that will come into effect from February 2019, all prescription medicine packs will carry a special barcode containing a serial number in addition to other details which will prove the legitimacy of the pack. Pharmacist will be able to scan the barcode to check the data against a central database, managed by IMVO, before medicines are given to a patient and, should the details not be found in the database, an alert will be generated and the pack in question will be investigated. IMVO’s chairperson, Professor Pat O’Mahony, commented: “Implementing these requirements by the 2019 deadline is a significant challenge for pharmaceutical manufacturers, parallel distributors, wholesalers and pharmacists but the organisations who represent them in IMVO are committed to building on progress to date and working towards meeting this deadline”.