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Matheson Declares War on Counterfeit Drugs

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Location: Washington, DC


Matheson Declares War on Counterfeit Drugs

Congressman Jim Matheson and Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer have introduced a bipartisan bill to provide a way for authorities to track, seize and destroy counterfeit drugs before they wind up in sick Utahns' medicine cabinets. The bill, HR 5839--Protect Americans from Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals—will be discussed April 24th in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Matheson and Buyer serve on the Committee's Health subcommittee.

"Counterfeit drugs hurt people and this is a growing problem. The victims are often people who need real, quality drugs the most - cancer patients, AIDS patients and people being treated for heart disease. Even though bogus drugs account for a small fraction of the 3 billion prescriptions filled in this country each year, it's time to fill the gaps in our regulatory system before the situation gets worse," said Matheson.

Matheson said the main reason for the sudden rash of counterfeit drugs is money. The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest predicts that the worldwide market for counterfeit drugs will grow to $75 billion annually by the year 2010. Matheson said some experts say it is more lucrative to sell a counterfeit drug than a narcotic.

In 2003, the FDA announced a recall of some 200,000 bottles of Lipitor—a popular cholesterol-lowering drug-- that were believed to be fake. In previous years, 110,000 bottles of counterfeit Epogen and Procrit—drugs used to boost red blood cell production in people with cancer and kidney disease, made their way into the marketplace.

Matheson said his bill has several important requirements such as:

* Creating one, uniform national pedigree system—a record of every transaction involving a pharmaceutical shipment. To date, 35 states have either passed or introduced pedigree legislation or regulations with varying requirements.
* Creating a tracking system, using technologies like barcodes and radio frequency chips to enable drugs to be followed from point of manufacture to doctor's office or pharmacy.
* Authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to destroy its seizure of counterfeit drugs. Currently, the FDA is required to return seized counterfeit drugs back to the counterfeiters.

Matheson said drug makers and distributors support these common sense efforts to strengthen our drug supply chain.

The scope of the problem in the U.S. is small compared to that experienced by other countries. In Nigeria and the Ukraine, it's estimated that 40% of the drug supply is counterfeit. Fully one-half of all drugs in Pakistan are believed to be fake.

"This is a public health concern. People need to know that when they take a prescribed pill it is real, undiluted and not laced with phony ingredients. By implementing these steps now, we can go a long way towards safeguarding the medicine people need to get well and stay healthy," said Matheson.


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