Another sharp increase in illegal imports


The number of illegal medicine consignments confiscated at the border increased in the first half of 2009. Swiss Customs reported 568 suspect shipments to Swissmedic. This corresponds to an increase of 92% in comparison with the first half of 2008. Half of the confiscated consignments came from Asia.

The trend observed over the past few years has continued, with illegal drug consignments increasing sharply from Asia, and in particular from India. In the course of 2008, 43% of the confiscated shipments came from Asia, but in the first half of 2009 the proportion rose to 50%, with the increase mainly in consignments from India.

The medicine consignments confiscated by Swiss Customs came from all over the world. Most consignments came from the following regions:
India 36%
Western Europe (e.g. German, UK, Spain, Greece, Portugal) 25%
Asia (excluding India, e.g. China, Thailand) 14%
Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Kosovo, Bulgaria) 10%
Tropical island states (Vanuatu, Fiji, Aruba) 5%
Central and South America 4%


The following product categories were the most commonly found:
Erectile dysfunction drugs 24%
Slimming products 14%
Muscle enhancers 12%
Prescription hair-growth products 8%
Painkillers 4%
Psychoactive drugs 3%
Hormonal contraceptive 3%
Prescription drugs for high blood pressure, infections, sleep disorders, and so on.  

Danger of slimming products

As there is mainly an increase in illegal imports of slimming products, particular attention needs to be paid to these medicines.

Most illegally imported slimming products contain prescription-only substances such as rimonabant, sibutramine and orlistat. However, medicines containing these active substances should only be taken under medical supervision. There are a large number of contraindications and precautions that must be taken into account when taking sibutramine. Otherwise there are huge risks to health. The product containing the active substance rimonabant has been taken off the market in Switzerland and other countries around the world because of psychiatric side-effects, including depression.

The quality of the products is debatable. In the case of medicines under brand names (e.g. Reductil, Xenical, Acomplia), they may be counterfeit and even in copies, which are mostly produced in India, the amount of active ingredient they contain is often uncertain.

Even in the case of those slimming products that claim to be only of vegetable origin, Swissmedic warns of counterfeit products containing synthetic active ingredients and refers to the publication dated March 2009,


Swissmedic repeatedly warns the public about ordering medicines over the Internet as these imported products can be dangerous to health. It is also illegal for private persons to import large quantities of medicines (i.e. more than one month's supply for private use). You can find additional information about the risks of ordering medicines over the Internet and the legal restrictions on importing medicines from abroad in our guide: