When Congress returns from August recess, representatives will establish legislative priorities for the rest of 2013. While there are a number of complicated and pressing issues for Congress to tackle when they return, it is important that Congress make some headway on things we can all agree upon, the slam-dunk items that are non-controversial, bipartisan, and good for businesses and consumers alike. Pharmaceutical anti-counterfeiting measures would top that priority list. Last year alone, worldwide sales of fake goods totaled over $431 billion. This vast counterfeit industry includes thousands of illicit online pharmacies that target Americans, many of which operate out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws.
- In the wake of this trend, organizations around the world have made it a top priority to educate the public about fake medicines and to stop illicit pharmacies. Some of the efforts to combat counterfeit drugs in the United States and beyond include:
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s BeSafeRx campaign seeks to raise consumer awareness about the dangers of buying medicines online. Recently, the FDA took action against 9,600 websites that sell unsafe, unapproved medicines, confiscating over $41 million of fake drugs in the process.
- Industry partnerships with INTERPOL, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, and the Partnership for Safe Medicines all strive to ensure consumer safety across the pharmaceutical marketplace.
Likewise, individual companies are doing what they can. Lilly’s own anti-counterfeiting efforts include a strategy focused on securing our products, deterring criminals, and partnering with others to ensure patient safety. As part of our efforts to secure the legitimate supply chain, Lilly is rolling out a program to upgrade serialization and packaging procedures at various company sites to enhance security and tools for authenticating our products. Under this program, our company will be able to track individual cartons and bottles of medicines with a unique serial number and scannable digital code. By implementing these measures in concert with several other initiatives aimed at disrupting illegitimate sales and improving awareness, we hope to make a difference for patients in the United States and globally.
As we prioritize supply chain security and serialization as an important tool for combating counterfeit drugs, it is ever more important the law is there to ensure the system can work well for patients and that it is harmonized across some common standards. The Senate is currently reviewing some important track and trace legislation that can address the lack of a common standard in the United States. The relevant Senate committee has already approved the legislation, and it passed in the House on June 3rd. The legislation has broad bipartisan and bicameral support, and it is the perfect piece of legislation to advance after the August recess without the need for extensive debate or time. This legislation “provides a uniform, national drug tracing framework to track prescription drugs from the manufacturer to the pharmacy and raises the standards for prescription drug wholesalers across the U.S.” With its passage, pharmaceutical companies and consumers alike will better ensure that patients have access to safe, effective medicines.
It makes sense that Congress should move this legislation forward quickly and without delay, so they can spend the limited legislative time this fall on the issues that require more deliberation and compromise. We encourage Congress to put a “check mark” next to this bill and send it to the President’s desk. Patients deserve it.
Stay tuned as Congress moves closer to passing this increasingly important legislation.