The development in the number of parcels with medicines retained by customs
In collaboration with the Danish tax and customs authorities (SKAT) and Post Danmark, we retain parcels containing medicines. We assess whether the contents of a product is a medicine, and whether the rules governing the import of medicines have been observed.
The chart below shows the number of parcels containing medicines retained by customs from 2004 to 30 October 2011.
Number of parcels containing medicines retained by customs
A retained parcel can contain several different packages of medicines and/or many identical packages. The medicines from a parcel can weigh from a few grams to several kilos.
The most commonly imported medicines are potency-enhancing products and weight-loss products, but there are many different types of medicines among the retained products, including antibiotics, hormones etc.
In the period November 2010 to summer 2011, unusually many parcels have been retained. This is due to the thousands of parcels with glucosamine (used by patients with joint pain) from "sundeled.dk" - a website used by the scam company "Helse Danmark A/S" to illegally sell medicines. An effort on our part with warnings in the media has reduced the number of parcels from this source, considerably. Please see our two news items on this subject via the links to the right.
Rules applicable to private individuals' import of medicines
Generally, private individuals are not permitted to import medicines to Denmark. In this context, private individuals also comprise doctors, dentists and veterinarians. However, private individuals are permitted to import legally purchased medicines from EU/EEA countries if they are for personal use and to prevent or treat an illness. It is illegal to import veterinary medicines.
Please be aware that it is illegal to import medicines that have been dispatched from a country outside the EU or EEA. The rules appear from the Danish executive order on private individuals' import of medicines - see the link to the right (in Danish only).
What purpose do the rules governing the import of medicines serve?
Medicines manufactured in countries outside the EU and EEA are often not controlled or subject to the strict control of medicines, which is important to ensure that a medicine is effective and actually contains the substances printed on the package. Information on side effects and warnings of medicines manufactured in EU and EEA countries is also secured. All we can say about the medicines sent from countries outside the EU and EEA is that at best, the medicines are ineffective, but at worst, they are lethal.
What is a medicine?
A medicine is any product presented as a medicine or which has a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic effect, which means that it effects cells and the chemical systems in the body.
We evaluate whether a product is a medicine, and do this by focusing on general knowledge of how the substance is absorbed, distributed and excreted from the body, as well as on how the body's systems and chemical processes are affected. The vast majority of medicines that are retained by customs provide information on the packages that the product has a pharmacological effect.
Each country in the EU individually defines which medicines fall under this definition. Therefore, it may vary from country to country.
In Denmark, it is the Danish Health and Medicines Authority which determines whether a product is a medicine. If you intend to import a product into Denmark, you should be aware that a product may fall under the Danish definition of a medicine even though it is sold as a food supplement, etc. in other EU countries.
Processing of cases regarding medicines retained by customs
When a parcel with medicines is retained by customs, we receive a copy of the customs form which SKAT sends to the receiver of the retained parcel suspected to contain medicines. The customs form details SKAT's information about the nature, name and ingredients of the product(s). The available information is often enough for us to assess whether the parcel contains medicines. You will receive a letter in which we describe the rules, and ask you to submit any comments that you might want to add regarding the imported goods. This will often take place within 14 days from when we receive the customs form and the product from SKAT.
Perhaps we will not be able to assess straight away whether it is a medicine that you have imported. In such case, we will inform you by letter that we need you to submit further information. We then make a reasoned decision on whether it is illegal to have imported the product(s). The vast majority of cases that we process end with a violation of rules, after which the importer will receive a warning.
You have the possibility of filing a complaint against our decision with the Ministry for Health and Prevention. Of the 25 to 30 cases a year, the majority of our decisions succeed.
Repeated illegal import is punishable by a fine
In the approx. 100 cases a year where a person has repeated the illegal import of a medicine, the person is reported to the police for imposition of a DKK 2,500 fine. There have been a handful of legal cases over the years, and they have typically ended in favour of the police with the fine having to be paid. Thus, the person is punished by fine of DKK 2,500.
Doping agents and euphoriant substances
Special rules govern drugs that are comprised by the Danish Act on Prohibition of Certain Doping Agents or the Danish Act on Euphoriant Substances. Study the rules before importing such drugs. Violation of these Acts is normally reported directly to the police regardless of whether it is the first time of importing such a drug. Violation of these rules may result in severe fines or prison sentences.
List of products previously determined to be medicines
We have written a list containing examples of previously retained products - which we have determined to be medicines - that have been imported to Denmark illegally. The list is not exhaustive, so just because a product is not on the list, it may still be illegal to import it:
Examples of medicines retained by Danish customs
How can I determine if a website is safe to buy medicines from?
In recent years, many websites have emerged that try to deceive people into buying medicines which are sent from countries outside the EU or EEA. Consequently, the buyer accidentally violates the rules by importing the medicine illegally. You are punished regardless of whether you did it in good faith and the website tricked you into buying the medicines from countries outside the EU or EEA.
It can be difficult to see if you are being deceived by a website, but there are some ways of checking it:
- Check where the domain is registered. If it is a country outside the EU or EEA, the medicine will most likely also be sent from that country and therefore retained by customs. See the example below.
- At www.cvr.dk you can check whether the company is registered in Denmark. See the example below.
Example of how to check a website domain and company status
Helse Danmark A/S: Where is the domain registered, and is the company recorded in the Danish Central Business Register (CVR)?
- For example, a search at http://whois.domaintools.com shows that in July 2011, www.helsedanmark.dk was registered with the following information:
Name: Helse Danmark A/S
Address: Room 3, Dekk House
Address: Rue De Zippora
City: Providence, Mahe
This means that the domain is registered in the Seychelles. Medicines ordered from this website also come from Singapore even though the website is presented in Danish.
- Furthermore, a search on cvr.dk shows that "Helse Danmark A/S" is not registered as a company even though it indicates to be a Danish limited company.
We continually work to stop websites that illegally sell medicines to Danes, and to prosecute the persons responsible. This is done in collaboration with other authorities in Denmark and in the EU. But it is not easy to close access to a website, and for this reason, consumers should be careful.
Also see the texts Medicines on the internet and Reliable information on the internet about how you can buy medicines online safely.