The Safe Doses Act, legislation I introduced to fight medical theft, recently passed both the House and the Senate. In a time of intense partisanship, this bipartisan legislation passed both chambers of Congress to protect patients from stolen and mishandled medical products that find their way back to our stores. It currently awaits signature by the president.
Medical theft is a growing form of organized crime that impacts thousands of patients in the U.S. who rely on life-saving drugs every day.
These stolen drugs are sold through a network of middlemen to our stores and patients have no way of knowing if the drugs were tampered with or tainted. The Safe Doses Act addresses each step of the supply chain to crack down on medical theft.
CBS News reported that organized drug rings are turning to medical cargo theft. In 2009, $184 million in prescription drugs were stolen from cargo trucks and warehouses. That is a 350 percent increase over 2007. It has become so prevalent that the Food and Drug Administration labeled the growing medical theft as threatening to public health.
Current federal law did nothing to distinguish between stealing a load of insulin or a truck full of tires. But the potential harm when medical products are involved is much higher. Many prescription drugs require special care and storage. When they are mishandled and then resold into the supply chain, there are life-threatening consequences.
For example, in 2009, 129,000 vials of insulin were stolen in North Carolina and then sold right back into the market to hospitals and pharmacies. The FDA received a report several months later that a diabetic patient was admitted to a medical center in Houston with an adverse reaction after using the stolen insulin. An investigation linked the theft to an organized crime ring, but while some arrests were made, over 125,000 vials of insulin remained in circulation.
In 2010, $75 million in prescription drugs that treat cancer, heart disease, depression and ADHD were stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, CT. The criminals used a well-planned and executed strategy to break into a secure facility on the weekend, disable the alarm system, and steal the drugs. The investigation is still on-going in this case.
I believe we can do better to protect patients from stolen drugs and cut off this source of funding for organized crime.
The Safe Doses Act increases sentences for those who steal medical products and those other middlemen who knowingly obtain stolen medical products for resale into the supply chain. The law also provides and gives restitution for victims injured by stolen medical products.
I am happy that Congress took this important step to fight medical theft. Stolen and mishandled drugs pose a serious risk to public health, and the Safe Doses Act will give law enforcement officials with the tools they need to fight medical theft as organized crime. Patients should be able to trust that their insulin or heart disease medications are safe and secure.
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