/By Celia Vimont
May 21st, 2014/
Law enforcement officials are struggling to keep up with the large number of prescription drug diversion schemes, according to USA Today. The crimes are putting the spotlight on the safety and security of the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Drug experts told the newspaper these schemes are putting consumers at risk. Last year, Congress strengthened oversight of the drug supply chain. The Drug Quality and Security Act established a system to track prescription drugs from the time they are manufactured until they are sold at a drugstore.
Over the next seven years, the Drug Quality and Security Act calls for drug manufacturers, repackagers, wholesale distributors and dispensers to pass and hold onto key information about each drug’s distribution history. The goal is to allow unit-level product tracing within 10 years. Four years after the law is enacted, manufacturers will serialize drugs in a consistent way across the industry, to allow for efficient tracing to respond to recalls and notices of theft and counterfeiting.
Marvin Shepherd, Director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, told the newspaper the problem “is much bigger than people will admit.” He noted large amounts of substandard drugs can be bought online. Some unscrupulous wholesalers purchase drugs from sources other than the manufacturer because it’s cheaper, he said. “Greed is the underlying reason for all of it,” Shepherd said. “People can obtain a lot of pharmaceuticals through diversion and make a lot of money from it.”
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy issued a report last year that stated the “prescription drug diversion problem has increased dramatically since 2005.” Federal and state regulators have not been able to keep pace with the crimes, the group added.