75% Increase in counterfeit drugs imported into Switzerland

The amount of counterfeit drugs arriving in Switzerland increased 75 percent in the first half of the year, according to health officials.

The Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic) said that it had received 992 reports of suspicious, potentially counterfeit drug imports from Federal Customs officials through the first half of 2010, according to SwissInfo.ch. That number represents a 75 percent increase over the first six months of 2009.

“This is a global development which is worrying because these illegal and counterfeit medicines put the health of those who order them in danger,” Ruth Mosimann, head of control of illegal medicines at Swissmedic, told the news source.

Swissmedic estimates that 50,000 illegal medicinal products enter the country every year, and that number appears to be growing.

“It is a trend. Ever more spam is sent out by these illegal websites, so it’s the offer which is somehow causing increased demand. Also Swiss Customs are more aware of the issue so a lot is discovered through their good work,” Mosimann told the news provider.

Many of the drugs are bought by people in Switzerland from online pharmacies and are then shipped into the country. According to Swissmedic, the main reasons people purchase these counterfeit drugs from online pharmacies is to save money and to avoid embarrassment. This latter reason is particularly true of counterfeit erectile dysfunction medications and weight loss drugs.

“We still have reactions from people from whom we have confiscated material who say they are surprised that the product was dangerous, and say they simply didn’t know and just saw that it was cheaper and a good product,” Mosimann explained. “Secondly, they are often surprised that it is forbidden. The Swiss law was created such that it is forbidden to import big amounts of medicines from abroad to protect people from suspicious material.”

Gert Printzen, a doctor at Lucerne Cantonal Hospital and head of medications at the Swiss Medical Association, said the rising trend of people buying drugs from online pharmacies is worrisome.

“This makes me concerned as a doctor that people prefer the easy way of pressing a button and ordering medical stuff for home supply, that they believe the advertisements without knowing the consequences,” he told the news provider.