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Taiwan Customs intercepts shipment of smuggled medical materials

Taiwan Customs intercepts shipment of smuggled medical materials

TAIPEI: Customs at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Sunday intercepted a shipment of smuggled medical materials at Terminal 2, estimated to be worth NT$1 million (US$30,460), and charged a man in terms of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act.

Senior customs officials said the most commonly seen aesthetic medicine product being smuggled into the nation is hyaluronic acid, followed by placentas and botulinum.

Aesthetic medicine products in some other countries cost about a quarter of what they do in Taiwan, the official said, adding that most of the smuggled items are manufactured in South Korea and Japan.

Aesthetic medicine products are tightly controlled in Taiwan, with patients requiring a prescription before a product can be obtained. Patients pay between NT$6,000 and NT$10,000 for 1ml of botulinum, while 1ml of hyaluronic acid costs about NT$15,000, the official said.

The high prices brought about by the tight regulations mean many individuals ask friends and family to smuggle products in from abroad, the official said.

A 33-year-old passenger surnamed Tsi from Hong Kong was found on Sunday with 100 cases of botulinum toxin, 31 cases of hyaluronic acid and 16 cases of microcrystalline hydroxyapatite in his carry-on luggage, customs officials said.

Chinese Society of Cosmetic Surgery and Anti-Aging Medicine education committee convener Sung Feng-yi  said it would not be the first time somebody smuggled pharmaceuticals into the nation, it was simply a matter of the alleged smuggler being caught.

Sung said counterfeit pharmaceuticals manufactured in Thailand and China have become almost indistinguishable from the originals, adding that some aesthetic medicine practitioners could be drawn to use the low-cost products in an attempt to drive down their overheads.

Sung said there might also be a few cases where doctors are genuinely in the dark about the origins of their products, adding that while the counterfeit products might not cause any significant effects, there would be no one to shoulder responsibility if side effects were to occur.

Patients should compare the prices at different clinics and avoid treatments that are priced lower than the average, Sung said, adding that patients should have a trusted doctor recommend a product and search for a practitioner with a good reputation to avoid getting involved in a medical dispute.