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Commentary

EDITORIAL: The drug makers' problem
The Star-Ledger, 9-13-04

The latest "drug war", according to the Star Ledger, is the proliferation of stolen medications finding their way into the nationís legitimate drug supply chain. Last week, federal authorities arrested 17 people in New Jersey and three other states and accused them of "trafficking $56 million in stolen prescription drugs, from sinus spray to cholesterol blockers."

The criminal operation in this case involved reselling stolen drugs at large discounts to legitimate retailers, who then would sell them at full-price. Besides theft, trafficking in stolen pharmaceuticals poses a threat to public health because the drugs could have been stored improperly or expired by the time they reached consumers.

The problem facing regulators is that a small army of middlemen handle prescription drugs once they leave the manufacturer, leaving ample room for theft and fraud. The Ledger believes that drug manufacturers need to strengthen their security and background checks for wholesalers; states should also toughen regulation of drug wholesalers, including "a sizable bond" for anyone entering the business. Harsher fines, including jail time, would also help deter theft in what is a quickly growing, and highly lucrative criminal enterprise.



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