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Swedes snatched in global sex-pill sting

Twelve Swedes have been arrested in a global sting targeting illicit trade in Viagra-like impotence medication.

Swedes snatched in global sex-pill sting
The confiscated impotence pills have effects similar to Viagra

Swedish police have hit six online pharmacies and confiscated more than 60,000 pills, Sweden’s TV4 news reports.

The primary products sold by the internet pharmacies are drugs designed to help men achieve and maintain erections.

The value of the confiscated goods is estimated to be around 4 million kronor ($600,000).

The operation was led by Interpol and the raids took place in 48 countries. In Sweden, police raided locations in Stockholm and Södertälje in eastern Sweden, and Kalmar in the south of the country.

The raids were carried out during the past week, according to Varg Gyllander, a spokesperson for the National Criminal Police (Rikskriminalpolisen).

However, Gyllander refused to confirm the number of suspects arrested in the raids.

“A handful of people have been arrested and we’ve also carried out a number of seizures. I can’t say exactly how many have been arrested right now. We’re in the process of tallying everything up,” he told the TT news agency.

According to Gyllander, several of those arrested remain detained and at least one will be remanded into custody.

“The crime they are suspected of is unauthorized trade in pharmaceuticals. For the most part it has to do with impotence medication,” he said.

The Interpol operation wrapped up on Wednesday, but the Swedish police continue their efforts to battle illegal online pharmacies.

“We haven’t seen the last arrest,” said Gyllander.

This is the second time Swedish police have participated in a coordinated international law enforcement operation again internet pharmacies.

The last operation, which took place in November 2009, resulted in the arrest of 22 people following a joint effort by law enforcement agencies in 26 countries.

Four men and one woman were arrested in Sweden on suspicions of having sold prescription diet and erectile dysfunction pills.

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VIAGRA

Should Sweden make Viagra prescription-free?

Erectile dysfunction medicine Viagra is to become available over the counter in Norway, meaning Swedes will be able to cross the border to purchase the medication.

Should Sweden make Viagra prescription-free?
Viagra is to become prescription free in Norway as it is in the UK, but Sweden is holding back from making the same move. File photo: Stefan Gustavsson / SvD / TT

But the Swedish Medical Products Agency (Läkemedelsverket) currently has no plans to eliminate the prescription requirement in Sweden.

In neighbouring Norway, like the United Kingdom, Viagra is to be purchasable from pharmacies without a prescription.

One reason for the move is to reduce the amount of Viagra and other medicines for erectile dysfunction which are illegally imported into Norway, Sveinung Stensland, a representative for the country’s Stortinget parliament, told TT.

Given the taboo associated with the drug, it is hoped that increasing accessibility will help with that issue. In order to buy the medicine, pharmacy customers will be required to fill out a declaration and receive guidance on its use.

Sweden rejected making a similar decision in 2017, the year the UK removed its prescription requirement for the drug, citing risk factors when it is taken at the same time as certain other medications.

Additionally, impotence may need to be further investigated by doctors, since it can be a sign of heart disease, the Swedish Medical Products Agency said in its decision.

But the Assocation of Swedish pharmacies (Sveriges Apoteksförening) said it looks positively on the Norwegian decision and called for Sweden to take the same step.

“It is an old medicine with which the risks are well-known. It is also a drug with major accessibility problems, which people buy illegally and receive a drug that they might not be certain what it is,” the association’s CEO Johan Wallér said.

“Viagra should not be made completely prescription-free, but you can make it prescription-free with certain restrictions,” he said.

By making the drug prescription-free on condition of consultation with a pharmacist at point of purchase, Wallér believes it could be made more accessible while reducing the risk of incorrect use.

But a Swedish Medical Products Agency spokesperson said that this would not work in Sweden, however, given differences in how drugs are sold: a pharmacist in Sweden does not have the right to refuse to sell a non-prescription drug.

But when Viagra becomes prescription free in Norway, it will be possible to buy it over the counter and then legally bring it to Sweden. It is legal to carry drugs not classed as narcotics between EU or EEA countries, provided they are for personal use.

Viagra and similar preparations represent a large proportion of the drugs smuggled into Sweden.

During the first six months of this year, Swedish customs seized more than 2,600 tablets, 3.5 litres in liquid form and 3.3kg in powder form of such types of medication.

“Most of it comes in by mail, usually from Asia. Most of it is ordered from various websites,” said Jonas Karlsson, a specialist with Swedish Customs (Tullverket).

Use of medicines for erectile function has increased significantly in recent years, according to the Swedish Medical Products Agency. More than 165,000 men were prescribed the medicine in 2018, compared to 112,000 in 2008.

READ ALSO: Viagra popular amongst older Swedes

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