There has been a 40% increase in the amount of counterfeit or illegal medications seized in Ireland, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union which is holding its annual conference in Wexford this weekend.

Last year almost one million medical doses were seized - half of which were steroids.

The union fears that many of these anabolic steroids are being used by people to build muscle mass and improve sport performance.

They have warned that these drugs can often lead to addiction, fatigue, insomnia, decreased sex drive and psychosis.

They said the internet is mainly to blame for the rise in these illegal medicines.

Speaking at today's conference, Executive Committee member Catriona O'Riordan warned that there is "no way for anyone to know what is in these supposed medications".

She added: "Quite often they have been found to be worthless placebos, meaning genuine health complaints and illnesses go untreated".

The Conference also heard calls for the Government to restore cuts implemented under the FEMPI legislation (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest).

IPU President Daragh Connolly warned that pharmacists were growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of Government engagement on the issue.

Community pharmacies rely on State payments for as much as two thirds of their turnover.

Mr Connolly said that between 2009 and 2017, €2.2 billion in revenue has been removed from the sector.

In his opening address, Mr Connolly also called on the Government to improve the role of pharmacies in implementing primary care to patients.

Under their current strategy, Mr Connolly believes that there is too much of a focus on GPs.

He argued that local pharmacists could expand their role as healthcare providers.

The conference runs until tomorrow.