India top source of illegal medicines entering Switzerland

A Swiss government agency said that India was the source for as much as 48% of illegally imported medicinal products confiscated by customs


This is the second year in a row that India remained the top source of such illegal imports into Switzerland. Photo: Mint
This is the second year in a row that India remained the top source of such illegal imports into Switzerland. Photo: Mint

Bern/New Delhi: India accounts for nearly half of the overall illegal medicines entering Switzerland, Swiss government data showed on Tuesday. Potency preparations accounted for the maximum of the illegally imported substances that were confiscated in 2016 by Swiss customs officials, the latest annual data showed.

This comes amid a continuing global clampdown on illicit wealth allegedly stashed in Swiss banks, including by Indians. Swissmedic, the Swiss government agency for therapeutic products, said that India was the source for as much as 48% of illegally imported medicinal products confiscated by Switzerland’s customs department in 2016.

This is the second year in a row that India remained the top source of such illegal imports into Switzerland. However, the figure was lower at 42 per cent in 2015. At the request of Swissmedic, the customs department seized 1,028 shipments of illegally imported therapeutic products in 2016. “Potency preparations remain at the top of the list of illegally imported substances, followed by medicines with the potential for dependence (psychotropic agents, sleeping tablets and tranquillisers) and other medically important drugs. “Nearly half of all shipments originated from India,” Swissmedic said in a release on Tuesday.

Among the confiscated shipments, 55% were erectile stimulants while sleeping tablets and tranquilisers accounted for 13.5%. As many as 13% of such shipments were “medically important, prescription only medicines”. Slimming preparations and hair growth preparations made up for 5% and 2.5%, respectively, the data showed. “The unauthorised import and use of prescription-only medicines such as sleeping tablets or antibiotics represents a risky practice from the perspective of health. “Particularly worrying is the number of confiscated medicines for the treatment of acne, which, though still small, rose in 2016,” the release said.

After India, the next top source of such illegal imports was Western Europe (The UK, Germany and Portugal), which accounted for 21% of such shipments. Around 13% of illegal imports were from Asia, excluding India, while 9% were from Eastern Europe.

Swissmedic said that criminal suppliers on the internet primarily use spam e-mails to advertise their ostensibly serious online shops selling “generic products at advantageous prices”. “Counterfeit medicinal products frequently contain too high or too low a dose, or incorrect, undeclared or even no active substances,” the release said.

More From Livemint