Online PrEP and the law

Last year the HSE obtained legal advice regarding accessing medicines over the internet and related issues of concern for prescribers, users of generic PrEP, and non-medical groups sharing information about accessing online PrEP.

The full legal advice was published in June of this year and we’ve uploaded it here.

Of particular note for people currently using PrEP or considering it, the advice makes clear: “There is no law in Ireland prohibiting an individual patient from accessing medicine via the internet with a prescription.” However, it also notes that “It is a criminal offence to obtain prescription medicine without a prescription.”

So what does that mean? It means that the biggest risk you face if you get a prescription and order PrEP online is that it will be seized by customs. It seems unlikely that the authorities would want to prosecute people for ordering generic PrEP without a prescription, but since getting proper medical support is an important part of using PrEP safely, it’s probably a good idea for people to talk to a doctor about using PrEP and ask the doctor for a prescription.

The advice letter goes on to state that “there is no law restricting the specific information that a physician can and cannot provide to their patient” about PrEP, including referring them to sites like that provide comprehensive information about PrEP as well as links to sites that can supply generic PrEP.

Doctors will also be glad to know that they’re “not under a legal obligation when providing a prescription to either state where the medicine is to be sourced, or to satisfy himself/herself that a patient is not sourcing the medicine online.” You don’t necessarily have to talk to your doctor about where you’re going to get PrEP, but it’s not something they need to ask you about as a condition for writing a prescription or not.

The legal advice was obtained in July of 2016, but was released in June as an appendix to the “Action plan: Response to the national increase in HIV and STIs in MSM” report from the HSE’s National MSM HIV/STI increase response group interventions subgroup.