Warning about imports of melatonin and DHEA by private individuals
Self-prescribed use of sleep hormones or supposed "anti-ageing" products can be harmful to health
Foreign online stores advertise melatonin products and the adrenal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) as "wonder drugs" for a wide variety of illnesses or ageing processes.
In Switzerland, these hormones can only be marketed as prescription-only medicines due to their pharmacological effect and potential risks. DHEA is also misused as a doping agent and is on the Swiss list of banned substances. Hormones should not be taken without medical advice. Swissmedic warns in particular against providers who supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription.
Illegal imports of melatonin and DHEA products have recently increased, especially from North America. These products are regulated differently by law in the USA, Canada and other countries and are sometimes marketed as dietary supplements.
In Switzerland, melatonin products can only be placed on the market as medicinal products. Authorised products are only available with a prescription. Special regulations therefore apply to the purchase of these products on the Internet. Private individuals may only import small quantities (up to one month's supply) of medicinal products not authorised in Switzerland from abroad for personal use.
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body which influences bodily functions such as the sleep/wake cycle. If you have any questions about sleep disorders, you should consult your doctor in order to receive the right treatment. Appropriate products can be obtained from pharmacies with a prescription if a healthcare professional determines that patients should be treated with them.
DHEA has been under discussion for several years as a "wonder drug" for signs of ageing. Because it is a precursor of anabolic steroids, DHEA is on the doping list and is considered a banned substance under the Sports Promotion Ordinance. A zero tolerance approach therefore applies to DHEA imports: any imports of DHEA will be confiscated by Swiss Sport Integrity. Ordering DHEA from abroad may result in legal proceedings due to violations of Swiss law.
For medical purposes, DHEA is also only available on prescription in Switzerland due to its pharmacological effect and possible side effects. An approved finished medicinal product containing this active ingredient is available in Switzerland, but it is only suitable for women due to its pharmaceutical form (vaginal suppositories). If a doctor prescribes DHEA for medical purposes, Swissmedic recommends obtaining the product from a Swiss pharmacy. Swiss pharmacies can also individually prepare other dosage forms (e.g. capsules) as formula-related medicinal products for patients on the basis of a doctor's prescription.