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The Latest on Internet Pharmacies, Supplements, Designer Drugs, and Other High-Risk Merchants

Israel’s policies on Internet pharmacies

Note: This is the first in a series of overviews of drug policies and regulations in countries outside the United States as they relate to Internet-based pharmaceutical sales. In LegitScript’s day-to-day operations evaluating the legitimacy of Internet pharmacies, our analysts monitor websites and advertisements in countries around the world — and our classification standards extend to these countries’ applicable laws and regulations.

Israel’s health care system is government-subsidized. All citizens are entitled to health care and can choose one of four health care providers (Maccabi, Clalit, Meuhedet or Leumit). All drugs, dietary supplements and cosmetics require registration by the Ministry of Health (MoH), which classifies pharmaceuticals — prescription, over-the-counter, etc. — and approves them for sale in Israel.

Are online pharmacies allowed in Israel?

Yes. Online pharmacies are permitted in Israel as long as they are approved by the MoH and they comply with local laws.

What are the pharmacy license requirements for online pharmacies?

Only a “brick-and-mortar” pharmacy that is duly registered in Israel and that also has been approved for the sale of drugs online is permitted to sell Rx drugs over the Internet. This means that Internet pharmacies not based in Israel are not operating legally if offering to ship or dispense prescription drugs to Israel.

What is permitted and prohibited for online pharmacies operated in Israel?

Approved online pharmacies may sell Rx drugs, OTC drugs, dietary supplements and cosmetics. However, there are strict regulations regarding the marketing of pharmaceutical products. For example, marketing Rx drugs using images of the manufacturer’s logo, the drug itself or the product label is forbidden. Another MoH requirement is that each online pharmacy must have a pharmacist available to provide customer service during the “brick-and-mortar” store’s operational hours.

Is a prescription required for prescription drugs purchased over the Internet?

Yes. A valid prescription from a licensed Israeli doctor is required in order to purchase  prescription drugs in Israel, whether at a “brick-and-mortar” pharmacy or via an approved online pharmacy.

Can prescription drugs be imported from outside Israel?

No. However, in special circumstances MoH is entitled to make exceptions for a delivery containing a noncommercial amount of a drug for personal use as long as the drug was purchased from a licensed pharmacy in the country of origin and not via a website.

How are drugs classified in Israel?

The Israeli Ministry of Health only approves drugs that were already approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, the European Diagnostic Manufacturers Association and/or Japan’s regulating authorities. In some cases, the MoH might request that the pharmaceutical manufacturers alter the drug’s name and/or adjust the drug’s leaflet to accommodate certain needs within the cultural context.

Here is the MoH’s general classification of drugs:

1. Rx/POM: Controlled drugs, containing active ingredients. Thus, prescription-only medication.

2. OTC: Non-prescription pharmaceutical products, which are divided into:

(a) OTC-Pharmacy: May be provided by a pharmacist at a pharmacy only.

(b) OTC-GSL: General Sale List at authorized drugstores.

What are the Israel-specific rules that consumers should know about?

Approved online pharmacies that provide Rx drugs are a rare phenomenon in Israel. Most Israelis prefer direct contact with their local pharmacist. The majority of Israeli pharmaceutical-related websites sell nonprescription products such as dietary supplements and cosmetics.

For Israeli citizens, buying Rx drugs from international online pharmacies violates Israeli importation regulations and puts individuals at great risk of exposure to contaminated and counterfeit drugs. Please see LegitScript’s definition of a rogue Internet pharmacy.

What are some of the hallmarks of an Israeli rogue pharmacy website?

So far, LegitScript has identified a number of Israeli rogue Internet pharmacies or rogue drug-selling websites, such as pharmasepa.co.il and v-i-pill.com. The majority of them, however, focus on selling one product or target a specific population. Often, this type of website will refer customers to a contact phone number for the seller and will not have an online checkout mechanism.

What are some other examples of problematic pharmaceutical products that are sold online in Israel?

Fix-fox.com is an Israeli rogue dietary supplement website selling P57 Hoodia as a weight-loss aid. P57 Hoodia was identified by the FDA as containing an undeclared pharmaceutical ingredient (read the FDA warning letter).

Another example is help4me.co.il, which sells Honey Sex. The MoH found this product to contain an undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredient (see the MoH warning letter).

LegitScript maintains an ever-expanding global database of healthcare products with information on prescription drugs, supplements and OTC products. Please refer to the LegitScript Healthcare Product Search to confirm that the product you are about to purchase is safe.


Additional Ministry of Health resources:

Israeli Ministry of Health Drug Registry

Israeli Ministry of Health Cosmetic Registry