Crime and Punishment

  • by: |
  • 11/21/2011

During my tenure at the FDA I served on the agency’s first Counterfeit Drugs Taskforce. Alas, one of the items in our draft report – that criminal penalties for counterfeiting be significantly enhanced – didn’t make it into the final recommendations since it was seen as exceeding the agency’s mandate (and stepping on toes at the Department of Justice).

Well – better late than never.  A new bipartisan (and bicameral) effort has been introduced to stiffen the penalties counterfeiters will face for putting illegal and unsafe medicines into the medicine chest of unsuspecting Americans.

The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act will increase penalties for the trafficking of counterfeit drugs to reflect the severity of the crime and the harm to the public. While it is currently illegal to introduce counterfeit drugs into interstate commerce, the penalties are no different than those for the trafficking of other products, such as electronics or clothing. The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act will target violators that knowingly manufacture, sell or traffic counterfeit medicines to the USA.

On the Senate side the bill is sponsored by, Patrick Leahy (D, VT), Chuck Grassley (R, IA), Michael Bennet (D, CO), and Richard Blumenthal (D, CT) and on the House side by Patrick Meehan (R, PA) and Linda Sanchez (D, CA).

Senator Leahy: “While the manufacture and sale of any counterfeit product is a serious crime, counterfeit medication poses a grave danger to public health that warrants a harsher punishment. This legislation will raise those penalties to a level that meets the severity of the offense.  Deterring this epidemic problem is a bipartisan effort.”

Senator Grassley: “Counterfeit medicines are some of the most profitable commodities for criminal organizations.  Purchases of counterfeit drugs by unsuspecting customers are growing at alarming rates, especially over the internet.” These drugs present a serious threat to the health and safety of people around the world. It’s important we address this threat by imposing harsher penalties on criminals who counterfeit these medicines.”

It’s about time.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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