Tampering With Prescription Drugs?
prescription drugs are tampered with as they pass through
several middlemen on their way to the local pharmacy, reports 60
Minutes correspondent Bob Simon. What’s more, if the
drugs’ manufacturers find out, they are not required to tell
patients or the FDA that the drugs could be dangerous.
"A drug comes from the manufacturer. It goes to the
national distributors. From there it goes to the
pharmaceutical wholesalers,” says Special Agent Michael Mann
of Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement. “We’ve seen
drugs take as many as 10 stops,” he tells Simon. That’s
because the price charged by the maker varies by several
factors, including where the buyer does business and how much
they are buying.
Such differences in price create profit opportunities for
re-sellers, extending the length of the distribution system,
which is largely unregulated and vulnerable.
“Criminals…found a niche that we hadn’t envisioned,”
Those criminals are emboldened by the fact that a paper trail
tracking the drugs’ movements is rarely required. As drugs
wend their way through the system, they can be harmed simply
by the failure to keep them refrigerated. Or, in the case of
some extremely expensive drugs, especially those for cancer
and AIDS, they can be diluted to multiply profits. There can
be terrible consequences for those who take such drugs, called
“counterfeit” by the industry.
“I’m sleeping and I’d wake up and cramp my whole body
and I’d be crying and screaming,” says a 17-year-old liver
transplant recipient, whose weekly injections of a drug to
raise his red blood cell count turned out to be counterfeits.
A second batch was also found to be counterfeit by the boy and
his parents, who appear on camera in the report but do not
wish their names to be used.
Even if drug manufacturers know their drugs are being
counterfeited, they may not want to scare patients into the
arms of a competitor by revealing the problem.
“Manufacturers are not required to tell a drug store,” FDA
Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan tells Simon. Nor do they have
to tell patients, he says. The FDA, which is responsible for
the safe manufacture of a drug, is not responsible for safe
distribution. That responsibility lies with the individual
Some states are beginning to crack down, but what’s really
needed, say prosecutors and health officials, is a law
requiring paperwork tracing the movements of drugs that would
make it more difficult for criminals to get away with drug