Department of Health warning over illicit prescription drugs in circulation

Date published: 21 November 2016


The Department of Health today issued a warning highlighting the continuing dangers of using prescription medicines from illicit sources.


The warning follows a report to the Department concerning the availability of prescription medicines on the black market in the Newry and south Down area.

Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer with the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG), Mr Peter Moore said: “The Department is aware that prescription drugs, including, diazepam, quetiapine and gabapentin, are in circulation on the black market in the Newry area.

“We would ask members of the public to avoid any prescription medicines obtained from illicit sources, whatever that source might be. Be in no doubt that medicines sourced in this way present a real danger to those taking them. Young people in particular may be unaware of the potentially fatal consequences of taking these un-prescribed drugs, particularly when taken with alcohol.

“If you obtain medicines from an illicit source, you simply don’t know what you are taking and you do not know what effect they may have on your health. People should only take medicines in consultation with a healthcare professional who has access to patient health records”.

Professor Mike Mawhinney, Head of the Department of Health's Medicines Regulatory Group, added: “The risk to the public due to illegal or counterfeit medicines is significant. This problem is not something we can tackle in isolation and the Medicines Regulatory Group is committed to working with other agencies to disrupt the supply of illegal medicines and will take every opportunity to raise public awareness around the dangers of using medicines from unregulated sources.

“I would urge the public to be vigilant and to avoid putting their health at risk by using medication from an illicit source.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Diazepam is a sedative-hypnotic Prescription Only Medicine (POM) and is a  Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
  2. Gabapentin is a Prescription Only Medicine whose uses include the treatment of epilepsy and neuropathic pain.
  3. Quetiapine belongs to a group of medicines called antipsychotics and is a Prescription Only Medicine (POM). 
  4. To report any suspicious activity in relation to any unauthorised or counterfeit medicines in the north, please contact Mr Peter Moore, Senior Medicines Enforcement Officer, DOH Medicines Regulatory Group, on: 028 9052 2094 or by email:
  5. Further information is available on NI Direct.
  6. Media enquiries about this press release to DoH Press Office on 028 9052 0074, or out of office hours contact to Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt

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