Protecting Patients from Counterfeit Drugs

Over the past few weeks, I’ve explained why drug importation isn’t the safest pathway to accessing safe medicines. Even leaders once responsible for the safety of our U.S. drug supply chain are voicing their concerns. Most recently, we heard from former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh in his co-authored investigative report on the dangers of importing medicines.

This latest report doesn’t just serve as a cautionary tale against legalizing drug importation. It also outlines ways policymakers can strengthen current laws to protect our drug supply from fake medicines.

Let’s take a look at a few recommendations Congress can consider: 

1. Determine Appropriate Resources for Agencies to Detect Fake Drugs
The FDA, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Postal Service serve as gatekeepers against fake medicines. The more resources they have to detect and deter counterfeiters, the less vulnerable our drug supply chain is from criminals.

2. Increase Information Sharing
If we make it easier for law enforcement to share what they know about counterfeiters, it increases their chances of identifying and placing criminals behind bars.

3. Discourage Counterfeiters from using the U.S. Postal Service
Enabling U.S. Customs and Border Patrol the authority to arrest and penalize counterfeiters could dissuade criminals from smuggling fake medicines into the U.S. through our mail system.

4. Legislative Updates 
In 2013, the Food and Drug Safety and Innovation Act (FDASIA) was amended to create a new penalty for “trafficking in counterfeit drugs” - in addition to counterfeiting other consumer goods like clothing. We need another update to FDASIA to address illegal online pharmacies and add enhanced penalties for pharmaceutical counterfeiters.

Thomas Kubic, former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI, perfectly summarizes legalizing drug importation: “We need to be strengthening, not loosening, our defenses to ensure that patients in our country receive safe, effective medicines.” I could not agree more.