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12 May 2021

11th May 2021

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye
MP for Radin Mas

Question No. 1054

To ask the Minister for Health (a) in the past five years, how many cases of illegal sales and supply of adulterated and counterfeit health products through online platforms have been prosecuted; (b) whether there has been a growing trend of illegal online sales postings for lifestyle health products with exaggerated claims; and (c) what are the enforcement and education efforts conducted to protect consumers.

Answer

1 The sales and supply of health products is regulated by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) under the Health Products Act.  The number of cases investigated for illegal online sales of adulterated health products had remained consistent, averaging around 70 cases per year from 2018 to 2020.  The vast majority of these cases were for lifestyle-related health products, such as for weight or hair loss or sexual enhancement.  Such sales are closely monitored by HSA as part of its enforcement efforts. Anyone caught selling adulterated or counterfeit health products online can be fined up to $100,000 and/or jailed for up to 3 years.

2 These investigations have resulted in six persons being prosecuted for selling adulterated health products online.  One person was sentenced to 18 weeks’ imprisonment while five others were issued with court fines ranging between $1,000 and $15,000. 

3 HSA takes a multi-pronged approach in tackling illegal online sales.  HSA monitors local websites and e-commerce platforms to detect illegal online sales of adulterated and counterfeit health products.  HSA works proactively with the website administrators to remove any non-compliant postings relating to these illicit sales.  HSA also issues warnings to these online sellers and takes legal actions against them if appropriate.  As online sales extend beyond local platforms, HSA also works closely with overseas regulatory agencies and international counterparts such as INTERPOL to share information on illegal health products.

4 Apart from enforcement efforts, HSA also engages consumers through various educational initiatives.  HSA regularly issues press releases to keep the consumers informed of online sales of illegal health products, and advises them on the risks of purchasing health products from dubious or unknown sources. HSA also worked with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) through its educational programmes to reach out to tertiary students from the local polytechnics and universities to highlight the risks of purchasing health products online.  Additionally, the Ministry of Health has launched the HealthWatch website in September 2019 to raise consumer awareness of false and illegal health products and services, and to empower consumers to make safer and smarter healthcare decisions.