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Risk of purchasing medications via Internet


Health-related technology is undergoing a transformation driven by Internet domination in everyday life. The results of these technological developments can be seen through the development of activities and advertisements related to health. The ability of people to surf the internet such as blogs and social media in a variety of mediums provide opportunity for certain groups of people to promote and influence the public in making choices related to health products.

Internet has become a dumping ground for online sales of unregistered pharmaceutical products, unnotified or adulterated cosmetics and also selling medications by unauthorized person. This trend is becoming very popular as the method of delivery through this mediums are faster and easier.

Reference: The Star; 20 October 2014 page 32.

Social media including Facebook especially is a strategic marketing venue to promote sales of pharmaceutical products. Image advertisements from Facebook below proves that the users are susceptible to sales of pharmaceutical products advertised regardless of the safety of the product based on the number of “Like” obtained. One page on Facebook selling unregistered products was found to receive 13, 207 ‘Likes’ while there are hundreds of other pages on Facebook selling the same products.

Reference: Facebook

Impact to the public

Advertisements and online sales in any digital medium expose users to take the risk of pharmaceutical products abuse since the actual status of the products and the identity of the seller could not be verified. Most of pharmaceutical products or cosmetics promote the products by displaying testimonials and medical claims which are deliberately designed without a strong base or scientific evidence to support these testimonies. As a result, the safety of its use is not guaranteed and may cause side effects to the public.

Reference: Harian Metro, 17th October 2014; page 2 & 12

Reference: Kosmo; 20 September 2014; page 2

Pharmaceutical Services Division Initiatives

In order to protect the health and welfare of the public, the enforcement inonline sales of pharmaceutical products through the internet becomes a major challenge to the Pharmaceutical Services Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia. This Division is trying to curb the selling of pharmaceutical products which violate the provisions of law detected in the digital medium. Pharmaceutical Services Division (PSD) through the Pharmacy Enforcement is also working with the Communications and Multimedia Commission, the Royal Malaysian Police, Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism to curb this activity from spreading.

Since 2012, Pharmaceutical Services Division has collaborated with international law enforcement agencies through the PANGEA operation. This operation coordinated by Interpol is carried out in an integrated and involved enforcement agencies from more than 100 countries worldwide. During the operation, the website has been monitored for a week. Summary of achievements website taken action to closure in PANGEA operation is as follows:


Reference: Operation PANGEA report, 1st September 2014

In 2014 (PANGEA VII), 224 websites selling pharmaceutical products that violate the law were listed to be blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. While 97 social networking sites including Facebook and YouTube has been applied to be closed.

Apart from the collaboration, the focus is also given by the Enforcement Division of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Enforcement Branch in each state to conduct raids on premises to find selling or manufacturing illegal pharmaceutical products through internet. Pharmaceutical products will be confiscated while vendors and manufacturers of the products will be subjected to legal action.

Source: Harian Metro; 18th February 2015; page 8

The long term strategy

The latest initiative by Pharmaceutical Services Division, Ministry of Health is to create a Digital Forensic Unit Pharmacy (UFDF). Digital Forensics Unit of Pharmacy was established in 2014 in the Pharmacy Enforcement Division and has been operating in the Pharmaceutical Services Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Digital Forensics Unit of Pharmacy was established with the function as below:

  1. Coordinate and provide assistance in the aspect of technical support for cases involving digital evidence.
  2. Gather digital information for the purpose of enforcement action.
  3. Conduct analysis on digital forensics.
  4. Provide investigative assistance to Pharmacy Enforcement Division and Pharmacy Enforcement Branch throughout Malaysia involving violations of the laws enforced in relation to the exploitation of IT.
  5. Create a network of cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in terms of cyber investigations skills and information sharing.
  6. Provide training in the field of digital forensics to UFDF members specifically and pharmacy enforcement officers in general.
  7. Investigate complaints from the public, government agencies and the mass media in relation to the irregularities that occurred in the internet involving pharmaceuticals.

Digital Forensics Unit of Pharmacy will provide technical output to the units in the Pharmaceutical Services Division, Ministry of Health and the State Pharmacy Enforcement Branch that require technical support in case of digital investigations. One of the role is to manage and control digital items during raiding and inspections with the State Enforcement Branch.


  1. Denin, M. J. (2014, 17 Oktober). Promosi Produk Rosak Saraf. Harian Metro m.s. 2;12.
  2. Facebook.
  3. (2014). Operation PANGEA Report. September.
  4. Steroids sold openly on social media sites. (2014, 20 Oktober). The Star, m.s. 32.
  5. Taktik Jual Pil Beracun Di Facebook. (2014, 20 September). Kosmo m.s. 2.
  6. Zolkiply, Z. I. (2015, 18 Februari). Buat Rosak Jantung Saja! Harian Metro, m.s. 8.
Last Reviewed : 05 June 2015
Writer/Translator : Norlida bt. Abdul Rahman@Othman
Accreditor : Muhammad Lukmani bin Ibrahim