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Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine

Volume 461: debated on Monday 11 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what legal limit applies to the quantity of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine that can be bought on the internet and imported to the UK; and whether her Department plans to criminalise such imports. (134666)

In the United Kingdom, there are strict legal controls on the retail sale, supply and advertisement of medicinal products. Pharmacy medicines must be supplied from a registered pharmacy by, or under the supervision of, a pharmacist. These controls apply equally to medicines sold or supplied through internet transactions and mail order. If supply is made through a UK pharmacy-based internet transaction then there is currently no legal restriction of quantity, although a pharmacist would use their professional judgment whether or not to supply the quantity sought.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) monitors the online availability of medicines. UK based websites which are identified dealing in breach of medicines legislation are referred for appropriate enforcement action. Websites discovered operating illegally outside of the UK are referred to the relevant authority in the country concerned for appropriate action.

As precursors that can be used in the manufacture of illicit drugs, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are subject to the 1988 UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and are scheduled as category 1 precursors under European legislation. Anyone who imports any quantity of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine is required to obtain a license from the Home Office. The Home Office is currently preparing legislation, to supplement European Union regulation, which will impose criminal penalties for the importation of scheduled substances, including ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, without a valid importation authorisation.