Illegal medicinal products from the Internet
Find out in this video why you should be careful when buying medicinal products online, and what happens if customs officials discover that a consignment addressed to you contains illegally imported medicinal products.
Questions & answers
Importing and exporting medicinal products by individuals
If you have received a letter entitled “Non-permissible medicinal products import”, a small package addressed to you that contains medicinal products has been held back by the Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) because it does not comply with the applicable import regulations for medicinal products.
What is permitted?
Under therapeutic products legislation, private citizens may only import small quantities of medication for their own personal use, and specifically no more than they require for their own treatment needs for a period of one month.
Example: One full month’s supply of erectile stimulant is a maximum of 3,000 mg sildenafil OR 200 mg tadalafil OR 600 mg vardenafil OR 6,000 mg avanafil. The active substances sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil and avanafil belong to the same substance class (PDE5 inhibitors) and must not be combined. You are not permitted to import medicinal products for third parties.
The consignment is assessed as one unit and cannot be divided into a conforming and non-conforming part. It is therefore not possible to deliver just the permissible medicinal products.
Please be aware that any prescription you may have only entitles you to obtain medicinal products that are authorised in Switzerland; it does not entitle you to purchase generic or counterfeit preparations on the Internet.
What should I do if I know nothing about the package mentioned in the letter?
In this case, there is no need for you to respond. Unless you respond or object within 30 days of the letter being sent, the consignment will be destroyed.
(This applies only to the “Non-permissible medicinal products import” letter and not to any administrative proceedings that Swissmedic may open, for which it will send you a preliminary notification letter.)
“demonstrate the legality of the consignment”
|Recipients have the option of demonstrating that the items they are importing do not infringe the Therapeutic Products Act.|
|A contestable decision is an official order that the recipient can challenge by lodging an appeal with the Federal Administrative Court in St. Gallen.|
|“correct import taxation”||Imported goods whose final destination is on Swiss customs territory must be sent to a Swiss customs office and notified for import taxation (customs duty and VAT).|
Private individuals (including tourists) may import a month's supply of medicines into Switzerland for their own use but not for third parties.
Regarding doping, special directives apply (see also www.sportintegrity.ch and the question "I'd like to import muscle-building products. What must I bear in mind?).
Swissmedic strongly advises against any purchasing medicines online from unreliable sources.
You are permitted to import a maximum of 3000mg of Sildenafil OR 200 mg of Tadalafil OR 600 mg of Vardenafil for your personal use. This dosage corresponds to the maximum authorised supply for one month.
The active pharmaceutical ingredients Sildenafil, Tadalafil and Vardenafil belong to the same class of active pharmaceutical ingredients (PDE5 blockers) and may not be combined.
It depends whether Switzerland considers the products to be dietary supplements or medicinal products. Annex 1 of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) Ordinance on Dietary Supplements (DietSO) (which can be found on the internet at https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classified-compilation/20143410/index.html#app1ahref0 – English not available) specifies what substances and in what amounts are permitted in Switzerland. By the way, a dietary supplement can also be classified as a medicinal product if it is advertised as a product for healing a condition, e.g. relieving joint pain, lowering blood glucose levels or losing weight. If a product is classified as a medicinal product, a maximum of one month's supply may be imported.
Swissmedic can provide you with information on medicines. For dietary supplements, you need to address the cantonal authorities (see http://www.kantonschemiker.ch/). You need to specify the precise composition of the products and the purpose for which they are intended, so that the authorities can process your enquiry.
Medicinal products, particularly muscle-building products, can also contain doping substances. This applies if the substances contained in the relevant medicinal product are listed in the Sport Promotion Ordinance. Different rules to those on the import of medicinal products apply to the importing of doping substances. A zero-tolerance approach is normally taken. Further information on doping substances can be found on the website of Swiss Sport Integrity.
An individual may import medicinal products for his or her own pets to the extent of one month's supply. Importing medicines for livestock is prohibited. By livestock is understood animals used to produce foodstuffs. This also includes horses, unless the identity document (passport) specifically states that the horse is a domestic animal.
The risks are health-related, financial and legal in nature. Medicines offered on the Internet are often substandard in terms of quality and effectiveness and pose a potential threat to your health. If their import is illegal, the goods will be confiscated and destroyed. You will also have to pay the administrative costs incurred. Repeated imports or any suspicion of trading in the products may result in criminal proceedings.
Swissmedic is not able to provide this information, since each country has its own legislation on the subject. For importing goods to foreign countries, please contact the relevant embassy.
There are two such forms, one based on the Schengen Agreement (Link) and the other issued by the UN (Link). However, the forms are only valid for medicines containing narcotics (e.g. sleeping medication, tranquillisers or medicines to treat severe pain). For security reasons, for travel outside the Schengen area you should ask the relevant embassy whether it is permitted to import the medicine into the country in question.
No. In order to export medicinal products, an establishment licence, issued by Swissmedic to pharmaceutical companies, is required. It doesn’t matter whether the recipient of the medicinal products needs to pay for them or not.
The customs authorities have withheld your consignment because they are not sure whether the import is legal. They have sent Swissmedic a "Notification regarding a suspicious dispatch". You have received a copy of this notification. Swissmedic will now process the case. If everything is in order, your consignment will be released for import. If the authorities decide that your consignment cannot be released, you will receive a letter from Swissmedic explaining the situation. You may issue a statement in response to this "Preliminary decision". You will subsequently receive a formal decision with legal instructions stating what will happen to the blocked goods. If you do not agree with this decision, you have the right to have the case judged by the Federal Administrative Court.
If the withheld medicinal products pose a risk to health or originate from an illegal source, they will be destroyed. Otherwise, they may be returned to the sender. In any case, you will have to pay the administrative costs (at least CHF 300).
If an illegal activity involves a connection with Switzerland, Swissmedic is entitled to intervene. If this is not the case, Swissmedic informs the competent foreign authorities.
In addition, Swissmedic informs the public at regular intervals with publications and press releases.
No. You need an operating permit from Switzerland to export medicines, which is issued to pharmaceutical companies. It makes no difference whether or not the medicines must be paid for by the recipient.
Importing medicinal products by healthcare professionals
For more information, click here.
Veterinary medicines may be imported into Switzerland under certain conditions by veterinarians with a cantonal retail trading licence. This is regulated in Article 7 of the Veterinary Medicinal Products Ordinance (VMPO, SR 812.212.27). The following information sheet explains in detail how this regulation is applied in practice.
Full information on how to import veterinary medicinal products that require authorisation can be found via the following link:
Last modification 08.10.2018