The Swiss regulator announced that 1,225 shipments of fake and illegally imported drugs were seized in 2014, which is an increase of 11% on the previous year and the biggest haul since 2010 when 1,852 loads were stopped.
Of these, 650 shipments were fake erectile dysfunction drugs, an increase on the 448 stopped last year and the 278 seized in 2012. Just over a tenth of the seizures were sleeping pills and tranquillisers and 10% were sleeping pills.
Swissmedic told in-Pharmatechnologist.com all the shipments “were seized at the border by border control, so most of them were destined for Switzerland. A very small proportion of them were thought only to passing through the country.”
Gateway to the EU?
The increase in seizures is fodder for those who suggest that many of the illegal drugs that reach the EU come through Switzerland.
In April 2012, World Anti-Illicit Traffic Organisation (WAITO) president Pierre Delval, suggested 40% of the fake drugs sold in Europe come via the country (here in French).
The suggestion is rejected by Swissmedic, which told us Professor Delval had been unable to substantiate his claims and questioned the logic of his opinion.
“Why would Switzerland be more lenient on illegal drug trade? We have one of the most important pharmaceutical industries of the world. They [Swiss-based pharma companies] would never accept lenience on this.”
Swissmedic also explained that the country spends CHF1.5bn ($1.6bn) a year on its customs operations and, although not all of it is spent on inspecting and seizing illegal drugs, it is much higher than other countries.
“Swiss border control for Asian imports are not less strict than in Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Malta or Greece to only name a few” the regulator said, adding that “Why would anyone pass his illegal drugs through Switzerland if he can get them into the EU much easier through Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus or Greece?”
Prof Delval did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication. He has since responded telling us:
"The 40% that I mentioned were subject to additional data confirmations. Under Chairman of the OECD Working Group to conduct this study, I specifically stated that I expressed doubts about the 40%, it was mentioned in the official text of the presentation.
"Switzerland is indeed a place of passage for counterfeit medicines, but no more than in Eastern Europe. It is true, however, that this border requires special vigilance."
We incorrectly stated that Prof Delval made his comments last year. The meeting took place in 2012 and we have amended the article to reflect this.