Medsafe warns of 65 overseas websites offering unapproved herbal products

Monday 23 November 2009, 5:22PM

By Ministry of Health


Medsafe today warned the public of 65 overseas websites that purport to be based in New Zealand and are touting unapproved herbal products.

“We would like to warn the public that these websites are selling products that have not been assessed for quality, safety and efficacy in New Zealand. Neither has consent been given to the advertising or distribution of these products in New Zealand,” said Mr Derek Fitzgerald, Medsafe’s Manager for Compliance Management.

Following complaints from consumers here and overseas, Medsafe’s Investigation and Enforcement team began investigations in August into an Internet-based business operation known as “Gordon’s Herbal Research Centre” (GHRC).

The company operates at least 65 websites offering “cure alls” for various illnesses and medical conditions. It claims that the herbal products had undergone clinical trials conducted “under the regulations of FDA and the New Zealand Health Authority”. The websites also provide details of a New Zealand-based postal box, giving the impression that the company is based here.

“Our investigations indicate that all 65 websites are operated from overseas and a money-making scam,” according to Mr Fitzgerald.

“Contrary to the information on these websites, this operation has no physical presence in New Zealand but is run by an individual based in Pakistan.”

Mr Fitzgerald cited that one of the products promoted on these websites, Reneton, purportedly can successfully treat polycystic kidney disease, a condition for which only symptomatic relief is available.

He also advised consumers “not to purchase medicines over the Internet because it is very difficult to determine whether the products offered are effective, safe, and legally supplied. The quality of medicines purchased over the Internet cannot be guaranteed and consumers may be exposed to poor quality, counterfeit products that carry serious health risks.”


Medsafe and NZ Customs took part in an international operation from 16-20 November 2009 targeting the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines.The International Week of Internet Action was coordinated by INTERPOL and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT) to highlight the dangers of buying medicines online, and was supported by the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime.

The Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC) is an international forum formed in 1998 that aims to encourage inter-agency cooperation in combating the serious threat to public health from the various forms of pharmaceutical crime. The PFIPC works in cooperation with a separate Forensic Group, which provides scientific expertise, and with other interested bodies including the World Health Organization, the World Customs Organization, and INTERPOL. New Zealand is a member of the PFIPC.

Medsafe has so far identified at least 65 product websites operated by Gordon’s Herbal Research Centre: