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If it walks like a therapeutic good, talks like a therapeutic good...

18 October 2018

For research purposes only.’

Not for human consumption.

Not bound by the Therapeutic Goods Act.

You may have seen claims like this online, made by retailers offering to sell medicines or other therapeutic goods that are either illegal or only legal with a valid prescription.

For example, a bodybuilding website offers to sell illegal steroids, but claims that their steroids are ‘for research purposes only’, and not intended for human consumption.

This store argues that because they are not selling their product as a medicine, they are not subject to regulations on medicines.

Every word of that is wrong. Their product is a medicine, and they are breaking the law.

If it looks like a duck…

Disclaimers about how a product should be used don’t change the law.

In Australia, any product that is likely to be perceived as a therapeutic good is regulated as a therapeutic good.

‘Therapeutic goods’ includes medicines and medical devices, but is broadly defined to protect consumers. We have more information on what counts as a therapeutic good on our website. In general, if it looks like a therapeutic good… chances are it is one.

Claims such as ‘for research purposes only’ or ‘not for human use’ are usually intended to trick you, the consumer, into buying an illegal product.

Sellers who make these claims know that you are not going to risk a fine or jail time for buying an illegal product, so they throw in legal-sounding language to mislead you into thinking their product is safe to purchase. Some of them may even offer free shipping to Australia – implying that the product can be legally imported into and used in Australia without saying so outright.

You get what you pay for

If you pay for a cheap and unapproved medicine online, you will get what you pay for:

  • The product may not contain what is advertised. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined internet sales of SARMs, drugs sometimes sold as a bodybuilding supplement and illegal in Australia without prescription. This study found that only 52% of the products analysed actually contained SARMs,and that 25% contained another substance not listed on the label
  • The product may not come from Australia. Some online stores look as though they are based in Australia, but actually supply their product from overseas. This means you could get in trouble with customs for attempting to import a prohibited substance in addition to losing the hard-earned money you used to purchase the product.
  • The product may be unsafe. If a medicine is not freely available, it is usually because it has the potential to harm you, or because it has not been fully researched. Some health problems from improper use of a product can appear years after use, so you may not even realise the product is damaging your health until later.

You can learn more by watching our video on buying medicines and medical devices online.

Retailers who use disclaimers like ‘for research purposes only’ are misleading you, potentially because the product they are selling is dangerous or dodgy. A retailer willing to mislead you to make a sale won’t be above cheating or harming you in other ways.

And that means they don’t deserve to be trusted with your health.