17 January 2004

Anti-Counterfeit Steps by Drugmakers Sought

Anti-Counterfeit Steps By Drugmakers Sought:

Legislators' Goal Is to Halt Illegal Sales

By Mary Pat Flaherty and Gilbert M. Gaul
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 17, 2004; Page A11

Congressional lawmakers asked five of the nation's largest drugmakers yesterday to explain what they are doing to stop counterfeit drugs from entering the marketplace. The letters are part of a widening effort in Congress and among federal agencies to crack down on the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said it was acting 'in light of the public health concerns.' The committee contacted Eli Lilly and Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Serono -- companies whose products have been the target of counterfeiters.

'Despite the best efforts of many companies, the counterfeit drug problem is getting worse every day,' committee spokesman Ken Johnson said. 'If we're going to turn the tide, clearly it will take a greater cooperation between the private sector and the federal government.'

Spokesmen for the five companies said they welcomed the request. The spokesmen for Serono and Johnson & Johnson said their companies already have added tracking devices to expensive product lines that have experienced counterfeiting. Serono, Johnson & Johnson and Lilly said they have also tightened their distribution systems.

In October, reports by The Washington Post identified widespread failures in the distribution system for medications, including sales of counterfeit drugs and the rise in sales of controlled drugs online with little medical supervision.

The letters to drug manufacturers follow earlier requests by Congress to several major credit card companies, shippers and Internet search engines about their role in the sale or delivery of narcotics bought from illicit Internet pharmacies."

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