Addressing the Counterfeiting Problem

As public debate heats up on several key issues affecting the biopharmaceutical industry, our senior leadership has been engaged on a number of fronts. In December, CEO John Lechleiter met with President Obama and other CEOs to discuss needed infrastructure to jump-start the nation's economy. In a releated meeting, our chief financial officer, Derica Rice, met earlier this month with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other CFOs about the principles of tax reform.

Today, Dr. Lechleiter was back at the White House with Vice President Biden and business leaders from other companies, such as Verizon and MasterCard, to discuss ways American products can be better protected in the marketplace. Anti-counterfeiting was the primary topic of discussion, and several other leaders from the Administration, including Attorney General Eric Holder, also attended.

Is counterfeiting that big a deal? Absolutely. It's not only illegal, but counterfeiters leave untold victims in their wake. Counterfeit products hurt both consumers and American businesses. Counterfeit medicines, in particular, pose a very real risk to patient safety. Consumers who use counterfeit medicines (often obtained over the Internet) can pay the price with their own health - either because the product does not work against real health needs or, in some cases, inflicts actual harm (imagine, for instance, someone with diabetes purchasing bogus insulin. The consequences could be dire).

Consumers also are hurt in the pocketbook by paying for fake products. Legitimate businesses across the U.S lose billions of dollars each year because of counterfeiting - potentially at the cost of jobs. These are real concerns that must be addressed, and the danger of patients using counterfeit medicines makes the problem even more urgent.

Billions of spam e-mails linked to counterfeit medicines are sent each day via the Internet. Even a tiny proportion of purchases translates into tens of thousands daily counterfeit sales. (The U.S., by the way, continues to host the bulk of online pharmacies, with 36 percent of the total).

Patient safety and intellectual property protection are both critical conversations, and our company looks forward to working with the Administration on addressing important next steps. Patient safety will always be our No. 1 concern. By developing strong intellectual property laws that protect our products -- and aggressively shutting down those who are hurting patients -- we can help people get the right treatments.