Rash of drug thefts triggers enhanced industry vigilance

May 5, 2010

In response to a flurry of drug thefts plaguing pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors in recent months, the Center for Healthcare Supply Chain Research, an arm of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA), is holding a seminar on Supply Chain Security May 10 and 11 in Alexandria, Va.

In response to a flurry of drug thefts plaguing pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors in recent months, the Center for Healthcare Supply Chain Research, an arm of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA), is holding a seminar on Supply Chain Security May 10 and 11 in Alexandria, Va.

The program comes after thieves struck Mead Johnson, Lilly, and the H-E-B supermarket chain in March. All three immediately notified FDA and cautioned consumers not to use products that show signs of tampering. On March 15, several lots of Cymbalta, Prozac, and other drugs were stolen from a Lilly distribution center in Enfield, Conn. On March 13, Mead Johnson's Enfamil infant formula was stolen from a truck stop in Richwood, Ky. On March 3, H-E-B brand ibuprofen, allergy medications, and dietary supplements were taken from a tractor-trailer in Dallas.

In another incident, Sanofi-Aventis experienced a major theft of Ambien, Lovenox, Aplenzin, and other products in January when a delivery truck containing its products was hijacked by armed men in Puerto Rico. Sanofi-Aventis is working with FDA and local authorities to identify the individuals involved in the theft.

Still, the industry needs to continually invest in technologies to improve security and ensure the pedigree of drugs. "Those systems would help us lock out stolen products," Frye said.

Meanwhile, truck drivers can prevent drug theft simply by driving further than 200 miles after leaving the distributor's warehouse. "The guys that steal the whole truckloads will give up tracking the trucks after about 200 miles," Frye said.