United States Leads World in Illegal Distribution of Prescription Drugs, Industry Report Finds
The United States in 2004 led the world in combined reported incidents involving drug counterfeiting, theft and diversion, according to a study by the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, a private firm funded by the drug industry, USA Today reports. The United States ranked first for the second consecutive year with 76 total incidents, followed by Columbia with 60 incidents and China with 59. There were 553 reported incidents worldwide, up 16% from 2003. PSI obtained the study data from the media, drug companies and government regulators. Countries without a free press or with more secretive governments "likely" underreported incidents, USA Today reports.
The United States had the fifth most reported cases of counterfeiting in the world. China had the highest number, followed by Columbia. The PSI report states, "As the largest market for retail pharmaceutical sales in the world, the U.S. will continue to be a target for the distribution of counterfeit, stolen and diverted medicines." Most experts estimate that fewer than 1% of drugs in the United States are counterfeit, but PSI Executive Director Thomas Kubic said counterfeiting "is not something that should be ignored."
Katherine Eban, author of "Dangerous Doses: How Counterfeiters Are Contaminating America's Drug Supply," said, "America has become the go-to market for counterfeiters because we pay the highest prices of anyone in the world." Eban said counterfeit and stolen drugs are sold and resold in the American secondary wholesale market.
Federal lawmakers on Monday introduced legislation that would require wholesalers to possess "pedigree papers" for the drugs they sell. Such papers track drugs' movement from one wholesaler to another. Wholesalers "generally oppose" the idea, saying that better technology such as radio-tracking devices will be available in the near future. In related news, Cardinal Health, one of the nation's primary wholesalers, last week said it will reduce its purchases from secondary wholesalers. New York state Attorney General Elliot Spitzer (D) in April subpoenaed Cardinal and two other wholesalers as part of an ongoing investigation of the secondary wholesale market (Appleby, USA Today, 5/11).