Unlicensed drugs have been illegally imported into Northern Ireland claiming to be for the treatment of Covid-19, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.
Clinical trials are ongoing but there is no medicine licensed specifically to treat or prevent the infection.
Mr Swann warned of the danger in using unapproved prescription medicines to treat the disease.
Some of these so-called medicines could potentially do more harm than the virusRobin Swann
The minister said: “I urge the public not to be fooled by online offers for medical products.
“Some of these so-called medicines could potentially do more harm than the virus. Be in no doubt, medicines sourced in this way present a real danger to those taking them.
“This problem is not something we can tackle in isolation and my department will continue to work with other agencies to disrupt the supply of illegal medicines.”
Illegally imported medicines are not authorised and have not undergone regulatory approvals required in the UK.
Mr Swann added: “My department’s Medicines Regulatory Group has been made aware that unlicensed anti-viral drugs have been illegally imported into Northern Ireland.
“This fake medicine claims to be for the treatment of Covid-19.”
Potential vaccines developed by scientists around the world are being trialled but it is expected to be some time before they are widely available.
Uncertainty remains around how long-lasting or effective they will be.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK.
Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, said: “The risk to the public due to unlicensed medicines is significant.
“I would urge the public to be vigilant and to avoid putting their health at risk by using medication from an unknown source.
“People should only take prescription medicines after an appropriate consultation with their GP or other healthcare professional and source them from a registered pharmacy.”
Another nine people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said on Wednesday.
There were no new deaths for the ninth consecutive day, with the toll remaining at 556.