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Pangea Rise in illegal medicines confiscated as part of coordinated campaign

chocolate wrapper

Illicit drug suppliers are becoming more creative. Heart-shaped chocolates confiscated by Swiss authorities were found to contain sildenafil - a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction.

(Swissmedic, Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products Media Relations)

As part of a global operation to tackle the illegal medicine trade via the internet, Swiss authorities confiscated 304 shipments containing illegal medicinal products or doping agents - a sharp rise compared to previous years.

The 304 shipments represent just under a third of shipments checked by Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA), Swissmedic and Antidoping Switzerland according to a government press release on Tuesday. Some 87% of the medicinal products seized during the operation were erectile stimulants. Over the whole of 2017, potency preparations accounted for 59% of the confiscated shipments, double the percentage recorded just a few years ago.

These confiscations were revealed during the PANGEA international week of actionexternal link coordinated by Interpol – a collaborative effort of 116 countries to combat the counterfeit and illegal medicine trade. Worldwide 500 tonnes of illicit pharmaceuticals and 110,000 medical devices were seized from October 9 to 16.

New methods

A key reason for the increase in confiscations is better coordination by FCA and Swissmedic and simplified procedure for confiscating shipments introduced several weeks ago that aims to get a better handle on cross-border online trade.

The focus also resulted from the latest laboratory analyses carried out by Swissmedic on erectile stimulants obtained over the internet, which showed that the quality of these products is still suspect: around half of approximately 100 preparations analysed had shortcomings such as overdosing, undeclared active substances or wrong ingredients. The consumption of these products can pose a serious threat to health.

Swiss authorities also indicated that the illegal drug suppliers are also becoming increasingly creative and unscrupulous. For example, some chemical substances were found in a heart-shaped chocolate. Upon analysis, the chocolate heart was found to contain more than the maximum daily dose of the active substance sildenafil.

Illegal websites identified

As part of the operation, the authorities also identified 27 illegal foreign websites masquerading as Swiss online pharmacies. The necessary steps have been initiated to have these internet sites removed.

Globally, authorities shut down 3671 websites with illegal online offerings this year.

Interpol, based in the French city of Lyon, said that the operation led to 859 arrests worldwide and the seizure of some $14 million (CHF13.9 million) worth of potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals.

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