Successful operation against illegal drug imports


Amphetamines, anabolic steroids, banned slimming preparations and illegal erectile stimulants of all shapes and sizes: dozens of illegal shipments of medicines and doping agents sent through the post have been confiscated by customs officers and by Swissmedic and Antidoping Switzerland personnel.

A total of 115 countries participated in this year's "PANGEA VIII" week of action to combat illegal trading in medicines online. Every year drug shipments are systematically checked over a period of one week in connection with Operation PANGEA. At airports and mail distribution centres, the authorities worldwide checked 149’623 suspicious packages between 9 and 16 June. They confiscated 50’068 packages and ordered the closure of 2414 illegal websites. House searches were also conducted and arrests made.

In Switzerland the authorities checked almost 600 packages containing medicines. Swiss customs officers and employees of Swissmedic and Antidoping Switzerland confiscated 56 packages containing especially harmful medicines and 10 packages with banned doping agents. The recipients of the released shipments received an information letter with the following warnings: Tablets and capsules of unknown origin may contain too many or too few active ingredients, or no active ingredients at all. In the worst-case scenario, counterfeit medicines can contain toxic constituents that pose major risks to health.

On the whole,the authorities recorded fewer imports of illegal preparations into Switzerland this year. Those responsible attribute this to the success of the awareness-raising campaigns. However, the procedural costs of at least 300 Swiss francs also appear to have had a deterrent effect on buyers.

But the operation does not just involve the interception of packages. Swissmedic is also active in combating website offerings. Illegal mail-order dealers abroad are reported to the authorities in the respective countries, which then challenge the offenders locally. Swissmedic also takes action against Swiss companies that host the websites of illegal dealers. Thus, for example, the domain names for several hundred websites were withdrawn from a registration company based in Switzerland, thereby halting its operations. However, some suppliers are now switching to social media channels. In connection with PANGEA VIII, Swissmedic managed to arrange the closure of a Facebook account that was offering illegal slimming preparations.

Operation PANGEA

Operation PANGEA is the leading international campaign for combating the illicit trade in medicines. Its aim is to halt shipments of this kind and to close down websites associated with the distribution of illegal and unsafe medicines. The focus is on the three main components of illegal online trading: internet service providers, payment systems and delivery services.

Operation PANGEA VIII took place from 9 to 16 June 2015 in collaboration with Interpol, the World Customs Organization (WCO), national drug monitoring authorities, the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime (PFIPC) and the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI), with additional input from various online payment processors, LegitScript and Google.