Today the House will consider H.R. 4223, the Safe Doses Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. The Safe Doses Act will fight medical cargo theft and protect patients from using stolen and mishandled medical products that are resold into the market.
Current federal criminal laws do not distinguish between stealing a load of insulin or a truck full of tires. However, the potential harm is much greater when medical products are involved. That load of insulin could be repackaged with counterfeit packaging, stored improperly and sold after its expiration date, putting individuals at risk for injury or death.
“Medical theft is not only a source of money for organized crime rings, it puts stolen medical products back into the supply chain where patients unknowingly use them,” Sensenbrenner said. “Patients rely on life-saving drugs and medical products every day, but mishandled and stolen drugs are finding their way back onto our shelves. We need to act now to show we are serious about stopping medical theft from endangering more lives.”
Background on Safe Doses Act:
Safe Doses Act addresses medical theft to protect patients from stolen and mishandled products:
- Increases sentences for those who steal medical products.
- Enhances penalties for the “fences” who knowingly obtain stolen medical products for resale into the supply chain.
- Increases sentences when harm occurs–where injury or death results from using a stolen substance or where the defendant is employed by an organization in the supply chain.
- Makes theft of medical products a predicate for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, to equip law enforcement with needed tools.
- Increases possible sentences for robbing pharmacies of controlled substances.
- Provides restitution to victims injured by stolen medical products.
Pharmaceutical and medical theft is a serious issue, endangering patients who rely on trustworthy medical products, and typically funding criminal organizations. Recent examples include:
In 2009, 129,000 vials of insulin were stolen in North Carolina. 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 are still in circulation.
In 2010, $75 million in prescription drugs that treat cancer, heart disease, depression and ADHD were stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut. 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 but no arrests have been made.
Key Groups Support Safe Doses Act:
The Fraternal Order of Police supports this bill because the recent increase in medical theft presents an urgent need to protect patients. It is also endorsed by the Coalition for Patient Safety and Medicine Integrity, a group of companies to protect patients from the risks posed by stolen and inappropriately handled medical products re-entering the legitimate market.