Confiscation of illegal medicines by Swiss customs has dropped for the first time in three years. Asia, in particular India, remains the biggest source of illegal imports.
According to statistics released on Thursday by Swissmedic, the Swiss agency for therapeutic products, slightly over half of the medicines confiscated in 2015 were erectile stimulants which contain the same active ingredient as Viagra or Cialis.
Other “lifestyle drugs” seized include sleeping tablets and tranquillisers (15%) and slimming pills (13%). Prescription drugs like antibiotics, pain killers and AIDS medication constituted almost 10% of all illegal shipments.
India alone was responsible for 42% of all illegal drugs seized, a slight decrease compared with the year before. A notable trend was a decrease in shipments from Western Europe and an increase in those from Southeast Asia.
“Better enforcement in Europe could be a reason why medicines that usually transit through Western Europe are now being shipped directly from Southeast Asia,” Ruth Mosimann, Swissmedic’s head of market monitoring of illegal medicines, told swissinfo.ch.
Medicines from Asia are often routed through Europe and sold via online vendors to give the impression that the product meets western standards.
Last year, Switzerland joined 114 countries in the “PANGEA VIII” week of action from June 9 to 16 to combat the illegal online trade in medicines.
Swiss customs, Swissmedic and Antidoping Switzerland were involved in the combing operations which resulted in 600 packages containing medicines being checked. Amphetamines, anabolic steroids, banned slimming pills and illegal erectile stimulants were discovered in the postal system.
Overall, the weeklong international PANGEA VIII effort resulted in 149,623 suspicious packages being intercepted, of which 50,068 were confiscated. As part of the fight against online vendors, 2,414 illegal websites were ordered to be shut down.