Illegal imports of medicinal products 2019: simplified procedure proves its worth

Number of confiscated shipments more than doubled

Bern, 5. März 2020

In 2019, Swissmedic – working together with the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA) – seized 7,781 illegal imports of medicinal products. Thanks to a fast-track (‘simplified’) administrative procedure that has now been introduced definitively, the number of confiscations doubled compared with the previous year even though the volume of imports remained the same. Counterfeit and illegally imported medicinal products are a major health hazard.

The simplified procedure for illegal imports of medicinal products, which was piloted by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products Swissmedic together with the Federal Customs Administration in late 2018, has been applied routinely to certain preparations and active substances since 2019. This has made it possible to seize a greater volume of illegal erectile stimulants in particular, but also narcotics and psychotropic agents, thereby protecting the health of the people who ordered them.

The sales channels used for counterfeit and inferior-quality medicinal products changed during the past year. It was noticeable in 2019 that Indian-manufactured preparations were often sent to Switzerland via intermediate storage or traders in Poland. Singapore and the UK remain popular as hubs.

The stability and effectiveness of the medicinal products depend among other things on the ambient conditions (e.g. humidity and temperature). Thus their quality is impaired by unsuitable transit routes – an additional danger to health. compliance with transport and storage specifications is vital for ensuring that the contents of the shipments remain intact and their quality unimpaired.

Confiscated shipments: trend over the last three years
Total Remarks
2019 7’781 Simplified procedure introduced
2018 3’203 Pilot project for simplified procedure in 4th quarter of 2018
2017 1’060 All confiscations according to the regular administrative measures

Owing to the introduction of the simplified procedure, the number of confiscated consignments cannot be compared with that for the preceding years. Thanks to stricter inspections of postal consignments by the Federal Customs Authority and to the simplified procedure, the authorities have been able to seize a larger amount of illegal medicines.

Origin of illegal imports by country/region
India 42,9 %
Eastern Europe (primarily Poland) 26,8 %
Asia (excluding India, primarily Singapore) 17,8 %
Western Europe (primarily UK and Germany) 11,7 %
Other countries 0,8 %
Confiscated shipments by type of product
Erectile stimulants 91,3 %
Other prescription-only medicines 3,8 %
Sleeping tablets and tranquillisers 2,7 %
Slimming preparations 0,2 %
Other 2,0 %

Anyone who uses medicinal products obtained through uncontrolled internet channels or via social media is running a major health risk. Medicines obtained from dubious sources backed by criminal networks are almost always supplied without boxes or product information (package leaflets). Moreover, they are delivered without any information about dosage, restrictions on use or possible side effects. In the case of prescription-only medicinal products, only doctors or pharmacists can decide whether these should be used.

In addition to administrative measures, criminal administrative proceedings are sometimes initiated when medicinal products have been imported illegally, e.g. in the event of repeat orders. As of 1 January 2019, either Swissmedic (where the Therapeutic Products Act has been violated) or the Federal Customs Administration (where value added tax or customs laws are also violated) is responsible for prosecuting offenders.

Black Ant tablets pose a serious risk to your health and should not be taken

Black Ant tablets pose a serious risk to your health and should not be taken
This erectile stimulant containing an undeclared chemical active substance is especially dangerous, as it explicitly claims not to be harmful for persons with cardiovascular disease – a contraindication for the active substance in question.
© Swissmedic

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