Legal issues to be aware of
There are different categories of health products deemed illegal in the eyes of the law. They are:
- Adulterated product - a product that contains undeclared substances
- Counterfeit product - a product that passes itself off as another
- Unregistered product - a product not approved for sale in Singapore
Those caught importing or selling illegal health products may be prosecuted under the Medicines Act, Poisons Act, and/or Health Products Act.
- Medicines Act
- Fine of up to $5,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment
- Poisons Act
- Fine of up to $10,000 and/or 2 years imprisonment
- Health Products Act
- Fine of up to $100,000 and/or 3 years imprisonment
Important points to note before selling health products
- Ascertain the origin of the product you are selling. Be doubly sure that it is from a reputable source.
- The cost can sometimes be a telling factor. If the price is way below the norm, it would be wise to be cautious.
- Do not sell prescription drugs without a valid licence.
- Find out your legal responsibilities before selling any health products.
- Online health product sellers are subject to the same regulations that apply to physical pharmacies.
Click here to learn about the legislation regulating the sale of health products in Singapore
Case study 1
In 2010, a teenage girl, only 16 years of age, was caught selling appetite suppressants and prescription only medicines. She bought the pills, Reductil and Panbesy, off a local discussion forum for her own use. After experiencing side effects, she tried to dispose of her medication on hand, a total of 21 pills, by selling to an enforcement officer from HSA. She was eventually issued a stern warning.
Case study 2
Also in 2010, there was a case involving Marvelon, a prescription only oral contraceptive. A male Singaporean PR in his late 20's, bought the pills from an overseas source, with the intention to make a profit off the sale. He tried to sell his medication on a local discussion forum. He was later caught and prosecuted in court. He was found guilty of illegal sale of medicines without a licence and fined $6,000.
Case study 3
A 28 year old lady was found selling prescription slimming pills on her blog shop in 2010. She was prosecuted in court and found guilty of selling prescription drugs without a valid licence. The penalty she had to pay was a fine of $5,500.
Case study 4
When authorities seized illegally imported contact lenses recently, some blog shop owners have been left facing legal implications and unhappy customers. One of these blog shop owners is Jenny, a 17 year old secondary school student trying to make quick cash. She is now faced with angry customers who are demanding refunds because she is unable to deliver the iris-enlarging contact lenses they ordered from her. In Singapore, those found guilty of importing contact lenses without an import licence can be fined up to $50,000 and/or jailed for two years under the Health Products Act.