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WASHINGTON — Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced new legislation that seeks to curb prescription drug theft through strengthened penalties and additional tools for law enforcement.
If approved, the legislation would:
Increase possible sentences for robbing pharmacies of controlled substances;
Increase sentences for the theft of medical products and for transportation and storage of stolen medical products, and apply that increase to each current section of federal law that could be used by prosecutors to charge such crimes;
Enhance penalties for stolen medical product “fences,” including individuals and organizations who knowingly obtain stolen products for resale into the supply chain;
Increase sentences when harm occurs or trust is broken — in other words, when the defendant is employed by an organization in the supply chain or when there was a death as the result of ingestion of a stolen substance;
Make theft of medical products a predicate for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, law, giving law enforcement access to wiretaps and other sophisticated tools; and
Provide for civil penalties and forfeiture of ill-gotten gains derived from medical product theft.
This week, the legislation was commended by the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a group of nonprofit organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines.
"This bill is yet another example of both the growing threat and increased awareness of the global counterfeit drug threat,” stated Thomas Kubic, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute president and CEO and board member of PSM. “When we’re talking about patient and consumer safety, there is no difference between stolen medicines and fake medicines. I am pleased that Sens. Schumer, Rockefeller, Klobuchar and Brown recognize this public health risk and have introduced this important legislation.”
One danger with stolen pharmaceuticals is that once those medicines drop out of the U.S. closed distribution network, they can be manipulated by counterfeiters before being resold, the PSM noted.