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Turkey’s policies on Internet pharmacies

Note: This is part of a series of overviews of drug policies and regulations in countries outside the United States as they relate to Internet drug 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.

Who regulates the sale of drugs in Turkey?

The Turkish Ministry of Health (MOH) regulates the sale, distribution, approval and regulation of all drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter) in Turkey. According to the Public Health Law (No. 1593) of 1930, the MOH’s duty and authority is to “control and audit all serums and vaccines, dietary supplements, drugs and all poisonous, active and narcotic substances, except those serums and vaccines explicitly used on animals.”

The MOH also oversees the Turkish Drug Tracking System (İlaç Takip Sistemi, or İTS), which consists of a registry of each medication container and assigns it a unique identification bar code. Only certified pharmacies are eligible to receive drugs registered by the İTS that carry an official İTS bar code. In addition to the MOH, the Turkish Chamber of Pharmacists — a collective of all of the pharmacists in the country, and comparable to the United States’ National Association of Boards of Pharmacy — serves as a regulatory body and professional guild. Though it is not a federal regulatory body, the chamber does have some jurisdiction over pharmacists and pharmacies (i.e. licensure, permitting, etc.) and provides limited regulation/policing. In Turkey, most drugs are still mixed or filled by hand by independent pharmacists, and few strides have been made to automate or mechanize the pharmacy and drug distribution industry as in the EU and US.

That being said, Turkey does have its share of online pharmacies. The chamber frequently writes about the threat to public health posed by online pharmacies. The chamber has submitted for review by the legislature a law to explicitly restrict the online sale of drugs in Turkey. (Read the chamber’s proposal here.)

Are online pharmacies allowed in Turkey?

Turkey does not permit the online sale of pharmaceutical or medicinal products. This includes the sale of dietary supplements and homeopathic/traditional products that make health or disease claims, steroids, infant foods and many nutritional products. Furthermore, physical pharmacies must be approved and licensed by the MOH before dispensing prescription-only and OTC medicines, as well as medical devices and many dietary supplements.

Is it legal for Turkish citizens to order drugs from online pharmacies based outside of Turkey?

No. Drugs and unapproved supplements cannot be ordered from websites that operate outside of Turkey and ship products into Turkey. Similarly, personal importation of pharmaceuticals into Turkey is not allowed. LegitScript strongly discourages Turkish citizens from ordering drugs online because they are often routed through an unregulated supply chain and could be counterfeit.

How are drugs classified in Turkey?

The MOH has categorized medicines into four classes:

OTC medicines and Narcotic Prescription, Psychotropic Prescription and Normal Prescription, also referred to as Red, Green and Normal, respectively. To elaborate, Narcotic Prescriptions (i.e. fentanyl, morphine) are written on red paperand cialis turkeyare tracked from prescriber to patient via İTS. Psychotropic Prescriptions (i.e. phenobarbital, codeine, ephedrine) are written on green paper and are tracked from prescriber to patient via İTS. Normal Prescriptions (i.e. dextromethorphane syrups like Theraflu and Vicks) are written on white paper and are less tightly regulated by the MOH, but are recorded on a log in the pharmacy. OTC medicines include many classes of drugs that are prescription-only elsewhere, including lifestyle drugs like Viagra and Cialis.

What are some Turkey-specific rules that consumers should know about?

Traditional herbal medicinal products must be approved by the MOH. Under Turkish law, dietary supplements cannot make claims to diagnose, treat, protect against or rehabilitate a sufferer of any physiological dysfunction or disease. Only medicinal products are recognized for the treatment of diseases, and furthermore these products must be sold in physical, licensed pharmacies.

Additionally, many drugs that are considered prescription-only in the United States (most markedly Cialis and Viagra) are OTC in Turkey. For this reason, websites selling these products only within Turkey are not classified as rogue Internet pharmacies, but rather unapproved pharmacies. (Please see LegitScript’s classification guide for Internet pharmacies for more details.) We would like to be explicitly clear that ordering these medications online in Turkey, or having them shipped elsewhere, is a violation of the law in most countries (including Turkey) and potentially dangerous to your health.

What are some of the hallmarks of a Turkish rogue pharmacy website? 

Many Turkish pharmacy websites do not have interactive ordering features but instead require customers to email or directly call the pharmacy. This does not preclude these websites from being designated as unapproved by LegitScript. As we see elsewhere, images of strong men on steroid and bodybuilding supplement websites, slim women on weight-loss drug websites and exaggerated claims of efficacy tend to be hallmarks of a rogue Internet pharmacy.

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

The Turkish MOH has classified a handful of tainted products and supplements unique to the Turkish market. Some of these include StagSprey 9000, FX15 weight-loss supplement, Cin Topu supplement, the drug Lifta and MaxMan virility pills. Please avoid any website that sells or markets these products, as it is likely to be unapproved and unsafe.