Los Angeles Times Examines Increased Number of Seizures, Arrests Related to Counterfeit Medications
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined counterfeit prescription drugs in the United States and the "growing number of counterfeit drug seizures and arrests." FDA investigations of prescription drug counterfeiting have increased from an average of five per year in the 1990s to 20 in 2003. FDA and customs officials in July conducted an investigation in which they searched 1,153 packages with imported drugs and found that 88% of the drugs were in violation of U.S. drug laws. Although importation is one method counterfeiters use to enter the U.S. prescription drug market, a "more serious problem" is a "lax drug distribution system [in the United States] that provides ample opportunities" for the distribution of counterfeits, according to the Times. A 2003 Florida report found that about 55 of 1,458 Florida-licensed drug wholesalers, which purchase drugs from manufacturers and sell them to retailers or other wholesalers, were suspected of selling counterfeit drugs or medications that were obtained fraudulently. An FDA task force on drug counterfeiting in October released a preliminary report that recommended strategies to deter drug counterfeiting, including requirements for drug wholesalers to track each time a drug changes hands and for anti-counterfeiting technologies such as radio-frequency identification in drug packaging. However, some experts say the recommendations are "Band-Aids," according to the Times. Eric Turkewitz, an attorney representing a patient that received counterfeit drugs, said that "the only permanent solution ... is eliminating the gray market of wholesalers, which allows counterfeiting and illegal diversion to thrive," the Times reports (Jaret, Los Angeles Times, 2/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.