Record number of illegal drug imports in Denmark in 2011 – erectile dysfunction drugs represent one third

27 February 2012

In 2011, the Danish Medicines Agency together with Post Danmark and SKAT (the Danish tax authorities) retained altogether 8,174 parcels with illegally imported medicines whose actual content is often unknown. This is almost twice as many as in 2010, and around one third of the parcels contained erectile dysfunction drugs.

2011 was thus a record year as we have never before intercepted so many illegally imported parcels addressed to private persons. By comparison, 4,417 parcels were intercepted in 2010.

Illegal imports could be dangerous

We warn Danish consumers against illegally importing products from countries outside the EU, Norway and Iceland as no guarantee can be made for the safety of their content. At best they are harmless, at worst they could be extremely dangerous. For example, reports have previously been submitted about deaths due to an non-approved erectile dysfunction drug in Singapore.

Finally, people who import medicines illegally into Denmark risk being fined.

Erectile dysfunction drugs account for one third

For many years, erectile dysfunction drugs have been the most popular product imported illegally to Denmark.

Some of the products go by the names "Sildenafil" and "Kamagra", which often come from Asia. We have seen attempts to copy the blue Viagra® tablets as well as innovations with the potency-enhancing substances sildenafil or tadalafil in gel form with different fruit flavours.

We have examined the development in illegal imports of erectile dysfunction drugs by looking at weeks 31 to 51 of 2011.

During this period, a total of 2,831 illegally imported parcels with medicines were intercepted.

928 were erectile dysfunction drugs, which is almost 34 % of the imports.

Number of illegal drug imports, weeks 30-51 of 2011

Illegally imported drugs in weeks 30-51 of 2011

The above figure shows the total number of imports in the individual weeks (red and green bar together) and also shows how many of them were erectile dysfunction drugs (the green part of the bar). Even though the number fluctuates from week to week, the figure shows an overall stable number of intercepted parcels containing erectile dysfunction drugs, unlike for example weight-loss products.

Helse Danmark – glucosamine from sundeled.dk

Additional to erectile dysfunction drugs, one of the relatively new products having resulted in large numbers of retained parcels is "vegetable glucosamine" from the scam company "Helse Danmark A/S. Since October 2010 and until end-2011, we have retained around 2,000 parcels with glucosamine imported illegally via the website sundeled.dk.

Police notifications and fines after repeated illegal imports

If we intercept a parcel that contains illegally imported drugs addressed to a person who have imported drugs illegally before, that person risks being fined.

In practice, we do this by referring the case to the Danish police. Usually, a fine of DKK 2,500 is imposed for the first offence, and 5,000 is imposed for repeated offences. In the vast majority of police notifications, the importer accepts the fine, without necessitating legal proceedings. On an annual basis, only very few people are imposed a fine of DKK 5,000.

The figure below shows our police notifications from 2008 till now. Since fines are usually processed in the year after the import took place, there is no precise connection between the number of intercepted illegal imports and fines from year to year. Consequently, the many retained parcels in 2011 will feed through to police notifications in 2012.

Police notifications from 2008-2012

Illegal imports 2008-2012

The rules governing importing medicines to Denmark

Read more about the rules governing importing medicines to Denmark:

Importing medicines to Denmark 

Example of an illegally imported drug