India is largest contributor of illegally imported medicines in Switzerland

India was the largest contributor of the illegally imported medicines in Switzerland in 2015, Swissmedic — a Switzerland government agency for therapeutic products — has said.

According to the agency's official data, India accounted for 42 percent of the confiscated medicine imports in 2015. At least 66 percent of the illegal medicine imports in Switzerland were from Asia alone, the agency said.

"In 2015, Swiss customs reported 1,134 cases of illegally imported medicinal products to Swissmedic. The medicinal products confiscated by Swiss customs last year had been sent from 62 different countries." an official statement said.

Without identifying the illegal products that came from India , Swissmedic said erectile stimulants constituted 51 percent of the confiscated products. Sleeping tablets and tranquilisers (15 percent), slimming preparations (13 percent) and prescription-only medicines (9 percent) were the other categories of illegal products seized by the Swiss authorities.

A notable trend however was a decrease in shipments from Western Europe and an increase in those from South-east Asia ,which according to Ruth Mosimann, Swissmedic's head of market monitoring of illegal medicines, is due to better regulatory system in Europe, Swiss Info reports.

The agency also warned people against illicit online trading.

"Potentially dangerous active substances that are either incorrectly declared or not declared at all represent a growing problem. Weight-loss capsules purchased on the Internet contained the undeclared narcotic substances amfepramone (appetite suppressant) and diazepam (tranquilliser). Amfepramone is no longer authorised in Switzerland and can cause severe cardiovascular problems, while the prolonged uncontrolled use of diazepam without medical supervision can lead to dependence," the statement said.

Swissmedic said most of the medicinal products procured from dubious sources on the Internet have major quality defects. They are counterfeit, of poor quality, ineffective or incorrectly dosed, and thus pose a substantial threat to health.

"Since most of the prescription-only preparations are supplied without a carton or package insert, users have no information on correct dosages or warnings about precautions or possible side effects," the agency said.

Switzerland participated in last year's Pangea VIII — an international week of action tackling the online sale of counterfeit and illicit medicines and highlighting the dangers of buying medicines online which resulted in the seizure of 9.6 million fake and illicit medicines worth more than $32 million.

By Bismah Malik

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