Swiss men are making use of a legal loophole to buy cheap generic Viagra from India on the internet. But these cut-price pills come with a health risk and are likely to be associated with pharmaceutical crime.

“Thank you for contacting us. An operator will be with you shortly,” says the live chat window of a website selling generic Indian medicines. Almost immediately an operator going by the name of Paul joins swissinfo.ch in a live chat.

“Our main office is located in London and all the medications are shipped from India,” he says. In under two minutes Paul confirms that shipping illegal quantities of generic versions of erectile stimulants like Viagra and Cialis to Switzerland shouldn’t be a problem.

He also assures swissinfo.ch that his “company” offers a 100% money back guarantee if the products are confiscated by Swiss customs. A tempting offer for any Swiss man looking to improve his love life.

Erectile stimulants are big business in India. According to PharmaTrac market research, the Indian pharma industry showed sales of CHF68 million ($71 million) in the “sex stimulants and rejuvenator” category in the first quarter of 2015 alone. This equates to around 20% of Pfizer’s global sales of Viagra in the same period but Indian pills are around 40 times cheaper.

Despite their relatively low price, erectile stimulants offer a profit margin of over 40% – the highest among all drugs in the Indian pharma sector. An Indian generic brand called Manforce that is legally manufactured by the Mankind pharmaceutical company was the 19th most popular drug of any kind sold in the country by sales in April 2015.

Manforce sells for CHF0.50 per pill in India while the Pfizer equivalent in Switzerland (Revatio) retails for around CHF10.

In the European Union it is prohibited to procure and receive by mail medicinal preparations for personal use from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA). It is also illegal to purchase a medicine for erectile dysfunction or weight loss without a prescription.

Swiss residents (Switzerland is not an EU member state) on the other hand can legally import limited quantities of drugs from outside the EEA without a prescription thanks to a loophole in the law on therapeutic medicinal products.

Swiss loophole

This loophole and the high price of erectile stimulants in Switzerland coupled with the vast quantities of freely available, cheap generics produced in India has created a demand that opportunistic online vendors are happy to meet.