To be clear here, we’re not talking about the dark net or anything to do with the Silk Road. We’re looking at whether you can sell your standard, perfectly legal, Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) approved medicines over the internet. Running an online pharmacy or perhaps providing medicines as part of a wider service could be a profitable venture. But you are diving into a heavily regulated area, and it might be harder than you think to sell your standard blister pack of paracetamol. We’ll explore the relevant rules and what you need to consider if you want to sell pharmaceutical drugs online. 

What Rules are Relevant?

The Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth) and the Poisons Standard (created by section 52D of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989) define the main rules governing the sale of drugs in Australia. The Therapeutic Goods Authority, in turn, administers these Acts and is a great source of information on selling medicines and drugs in Australia.

Can I Supply Drugs?

Whether you can provide drugs depends on what type of drug you want to sell. Licenced entities, pharmacies or medical practitioners need to sell specific drugs, and if you’re caught selling any drugs which only these specific entities or individuals can sell, then you’re likely to commit an offence.

Poisons Standard Schedules

The Poisons Standard places different drugs in different schedules. A specific entity or person can sell the drugs listed in a specific schedule.

No person aside from a pharmacist must sell Schedule 2 poisons unless licenced to do so (section 34 Poisons Standard). Schedule 3 medicines are pharmacist only medicines. These medicines can be sold without a prescription, but only from a pharmacist. Only pharmacists and medical practitioners can sell Schedule 4 poisons.

This means that if you are not a pharmacist, medical practitioner or other licenced entity, selling drugs is quite difficult! If you wanted to sell drugs online without breaking any rules, you would need to either become a licenced pharmacist or medical practitioner or sell an unlisted drug.  

What Else Should You Consider?

For a majority of medicines sold over the counter, you can advertise to consumers (an ‘over the counter’ medicine is typically a medicine which can be purchased without a prescription, but only from a pharmacy and in some cases a supermarket). In contrast, advertising prescription-only medicines is a no-go. Government public health campaigns, such as the cervical cancer vaccine campaign, are an exception.

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The regulation of therapeutic goods (i.e. drugs and medicines) is a bed of bureaucratic worms – it’s incredibly complex. Our outline sets out some of the factors to consider if you want to sell drugs online but if you’re thinking of doing so, you should seek legal advice to ensure that you remain on the right side of the law. Questions? Get in touch with our online business lawyers on 1300 544 755. 

Chloe Sevil

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