At the request of Swissmedic, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, Swiss customs last year seized 1,028 shipments of illegally imported therapeutic products. This puts the total number at a similar level to the previous year (2015: 1,134). Potency preparations remain at the top of the list of illegally imported substances, followed by medicines with the potential for dependence (psychotropic agents, sleeping tablets and tranquillisers) and other medically important drugs. Nearly half of all shipments originated from India.
The unauthorised import and use of prescription-only medicines such as sleeping tablets or antibiotics represents a risky practice from the perspective of health. Particularly worrying is the number of confiscated medicines for the treatment of acne, which, though still small, rose in 2016. Preparations containing the active ingredient isotretinoin harm unborn children and should never be used during pregnancy. Such treatments must therefore always be prescribed and closely monitored by a doctor.
Criminal suppliers on the Internet primarily use spam e-mails to advertise their ostensibly serious online shops selling "generic products at advantageous prices". In many cases, the medicines that are supplied have serious quality defects and arrive without a carton or package insert, which means that there are absolutely no warnings about side effects and precautions or information about the correct dosage. Counterfeit medicinal products frequently contain too high or too low a dose, or incorrect, undeclared or even no active substances.
Medical prescribing requires personal contact between patients and healthcare professionals
The use of prescription-only medicines without medical supervision represents a danger to health. Prescription-only medicines must always be dispensed and prescribed under the direction of a doctor. A doctor should always be consulted in the event of health problems such as protracted sleep disorders, stubborn infections or severe acne.
Origin of illegal imports by continent/country
|Western Europe (incl. UK, Germany, Portugal)||21%
|Asia (excluding India, primarily Thailand, China, Singapore, Cambodia)||13%
Confiscated shipments by type of product
|Sleeping tablets and tranquillisers||13,5%||15%|
|Medically important, prescription-only medicines||13%||9%|
|Hair growth preparations||2,5%
(all figures rounded)