Illegal imports of medicinal products in Swirtzerland

In 2023, the Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) seized 6,659 illegal medicinal product shipments, with erectile stimulants constituting over two-thirds of these imports, primarily from India. Swissmedic, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, highlighted the risks of purchasing medicines from unverified sources, particularly online, due to potential health hazards and the support of criminal networks.
In 2023, the Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security (FOCBS) intercepted 6,659 illegal shipments of medicinal products, acting on behalf of Swissmedic, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products. A significant portion of these seizures, over two-thirds, were of erectile stimulants, with sleeping aids, tranquillizers, hormones including melatonin, nasal sprays, and laxatives also featuring prominently. A notable 43% of these shipments originated from India, highlighting the global nature of this issue. The dynamic between regulatory bodies and the purveyors of these illegal goods resembles a continuous game of cat and mouse, with the source countries of these products frequently changing to evade detection and regulatory actions.

Despite a slight decrease from the previous year's total of 6,793 seizures, the problem of illegal medicinal imports, particularly erectile stimulants, persists. Many of these products lack the active ingredients promised or contain incorrect substances, sometimes alongside harmful additives. Swissmedic consistently advises against purchasing medicinal products from unverified sources, especially online, due to potential health risks and the possibility of supporting criminal activities. The organization stresses the importance of consulting a healthcare professional before using prescription medications.

The landscape of illegal medicinal product imports is ever-changing, with suppliers swiftly altering their manufacturing and shipping strategies in response to regulatory measures. For example, a significant shift occurred from Eastern Europe to India, largely due to successful crackdowns by Polish authorities and the cost advantages of shipping from India.

To combat this illegal trade, a collaborative effort among national and international regulatory bodies is crucial. In Switzerland, Swissmedic collaborates with the FOCBS, Swiss Sport Integrity, and cantonal authorities. However, consumers also play a critical role by avoiding products with suspicious claims.

Regarding enforcement, Swissmedic and the FOCBS utilized a simplified procedure for 90% of the seized shipments, leading to the destruction of illegal products, particularly those misrepresenting as erectile stimulants, weight loss aids, and psychotropic drugs. Swissmedic initiated administrative proceedings in 185 instances, billing the costs to the intended recipients, while the Penal Division pursued legal action in several cases related to the illegal import of medicinal products.

The message is clear: consumers should exercise caution and avoid purchasing medicinal products through unregulated online channels or social media. Such products, often lacking proper packaging or detailed usage information, pose significant health risks. The only reliable decision-makers regarding prescription medicines are qualified doctors and pharmacists.