CUSTOMS officers have seized more than 2.5 million tablets in the past two years as people flock to internet sites to buy cheap medicine.
And the Revenue Commissioners has revealed a sharp rise in illegal drug seizures, with a three-fold increase in the amount of cocaine and heroin recovered last year.
Headline results for 2012 show the number of people convicted of tax offences has also increased from 30 to 50, while more than €490m was yielded after individuals and businesses were targeted for audit.
But they show a worrying trend by some people to buy essential medicines online, despite warnings that the drugs may not be properly tested or suitable for consumption.
The figures show there were 6,072 medicinal seizures, comprising 1.2 million tablets and 210 litres of liquid medicine. In 2011, 6,405 seizures were made, which included 1.2 million tablets and 507 litres of medicine.
The Irish Medicines Board warned of the dangers of buying medicines online, saying they could pose serious health risks.
"There are no guarantees as to the safety, quality or effectiveness of these products," chief executive Pat O'Mahoney said. "Medicines purchased on the internet can pose serious health risks. The supply of prescription-only medicines via the internet is illegal and no online pharmacy is authorised to operate in or into Ireland."
The headline results, published last night, show:
• 469kg of cocaine and heroin were seized, worth €33m, compared with finds totalling €9.9m in 2011.
• 8,121 seizures of cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamines were made, worth €16.2m. This compares with €14.1m the previous year.
• 50 people were convicted of tax offences, compared with 30 in 2011.
• 196 investigations are ongoing, with 13 before the courts.
• €7.6m was taken as a result of 2,434 prosecutions for using laundered oil and VRT offences.
• There were 31,808 enforcement orders for non-payment of tax, yielding €210m.
• 96 million cigarettes, 20,000 kg of tobacco and 33,000 litres of alcohol were seized, worth €51m.
• There were 1,418 seizures of illegal fuel, or 878,000 litres.
The figures were welcomed by Retail Ireland, which said the scale of the lost tax revenue as a result of the sale of illegal and counterfeit goods meant it would make economic sense to invest more in tackling the problem.
However, the number of staff employed in the Revenue Commissioners fell to 5,732 last year, down 230 on 2011.