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Uptick in illicit medicine seizures in Switzerland

Medicine labelSwiss customs seized 1,225 illegal medicine shipments in 2014, reversing three years of declines, says Swissmedic.

The drugs regulator reports that there was a 12 per cent increase in seizures compared to the prior year, with 45 per cent of the total shipped from India, but adds that it "does not yet believe that this represents a reversal of the trend."

All told, 53 per cent of the confiscations were erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs, a sharp rise on prior years (26 per cent in 2012 and 42 per cent in 2013) which Swissmedic said was particularly concerning.

"A growing number of men are overdosing on erectile stimulants, and they are anything but harmless," said Ruth Mosimann, head of the illegal medicines monitoring at Swissmedic, who noted some of the seized samples had doses of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) that were sometimes double or triple the recommended amount.

The high percentage of ED drugs is particularly surprising given that attempting to illegally import them can cost the buyer at least 300 Swiss francs ($325) in procedural costs.

The next most common product category was sleeping pills and tranquillisers - accounting for 13 per cent of the total and in second place for the first time - followed by slimming preparations (10 per cent).

After India, the most common source of origin was Western Europe (22 per cent) followed by other Asian countries (19 per cent) and Eastern Europe (5 per cent).

Swissmedic attributes the distribution to stricter control on the illegal trade in medicinal products in Europe.

"Better enforcement in Europe is forcing criminal distributors to switch to India, where the authorities are obviously taking very little action," according to Mosimann.


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