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Swissmedic Intercepts Way More Viagra Than Other Drugs

The Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, Swissmedic—in conjunction with the Federal Customs Administration—seizes thousands of shipments of drugs each year. According to a Swissmedic investigator in a conversation with 20 minutes, the overwhelming majority of these drugs are erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra – and usually in counterfeit form.

Under just the initials R.K., the Swissmedic investigator told the newspaper of his day-to-day as an investigator for the Swiss federal medical authority. He pointed out two drug trends, both of which were reflected in the matching Federal Customs Administration report. Additionally, he explained that darknet drug trafficking was a threat that authorities underestimated.

The first trend R.K. pointed out was that of the increase in counterfeit “erectile stimulants.” These fake Viagra shipments are not a new development. In fact, the investigator called “erection enhancers” the classically seized drug. However, he said that “men have changed in recent years,” referring to young men. “This was never an issue,” he explained. “Today, in certain circles of young men, it is necessary [to buy Viagra online] and then inject it.”

  1. Erectile stimulants: 55% in 2016, 51% in 2015;
  2. Sleeping tablets and tranquillisers: 13,5% in 2016, 15% in 2015;
  3. Vital, Prescription-only Medicines: 13% in 2016, 9% in 2015;
  4. Weight loss drugs: 5% in 2016, 13% in 2015;
  5. Hair growth preparations: 2,5% in 2016, 1% in 2015;
  6. Other: 11% in 2016, 12% in 2015.

While hardly on the charts—when compared to the importation of erection medication—R.K. said that acne medication posed an immediate threat. Not just any acne medication, he explained; people began importing particularly preparations containing a particularly potent active ingredient: isotretinoin. In some parts of the world, the drug goes by Myorisan, Claravis, or Absorica. And in days past, it was called Accutane.

The drug was first researched at Roche Laboratories in Switzerland, prior to meeting FDA approval for the treatment of acne. Years later, due to the thousands of children that had been born with birth defects, the FDA almost removed the drug from the market. Today, it comes with booklets of warnings, signatures, monthly (or bi/tri monthly) blood tests, and monthly pregnancy tests. For women in some countries, a negative pregnancy test must be presented prior to receiving refill.

And according to R.K., this is the new trend. His so-called “beauty trend.” The majority of the users of isotretinoin are young women and the fear, he said, is that the women would be unaware of the consequences of unmonitored isotretinoin treatment. Birth defects are not the only adverse effects that isotretinoin can cause. Both men and women risk blood issues and even psychiatric effects. And thus, Swissmedic warned, “such treatments must therefore always be prescribed and closely monitored by a doctor.”

The Swissmedic 2016 report fingers spam emails as the source of many of these medications. R.K., though explained that darknet dealers are responsible for much of today’s drug importation. The investigator increasingly researches the darknet with Fedpol and foreign authorities. He explained that “there are ways to detect criminals who operate [on the] darknet.” And added that the darknet was no “safe haven” for drug dealers.

When R.K. was asked if law enforcement investigated buyers as well as marketplaces, he said that they do not. “The primary goal is to prevent access and close the marketplace. We do not [investigate the] customers.”

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