In continuing her work to keep children and families safe, Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (CA-39) today entered a statement for the Congressional Record in support of the "Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011" (H.R. 3668), which will increase penalties for trafficking counterfeit drugs. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security today held a hearing on H.R. 3668, which Congresswoman Sánchez (D-CA) introduced with Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) in November 2011.
"The American people deserve to know the medicine they put into their bodies is safe and effective," said Congresswoman Sánchez. "As a parent, I want peace of mind that any medication that my family takes is authentic. We need to hold counterfeit drug enterprises accountable for putting the public's safety at risk and robbing American businesses of millions of dollars in revenue. This legislation gives our law enforcement officers the tools to better go after counterfeit drug traffickers, and most importantly, this bill helps ensure the safety of the medications upon which our seniors and children rely."
The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011 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 United States. It has been reported that counterfeit drugs result in 100,000 fatalities globally each year, and account for an estimated $75 billion in annual revenue for criminal enterprises. H.R. 3668 responds to recommendations made by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and the administration's Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Inter-agency Working Group.
Below is a copy of the statement:
Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Statement for the Record, Subcommittee on the Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Hearing on: H.R. 4223, the "Safe Doses Act"; H.R. 3668, the "Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011"; and, H.R. 4216, the "Foreign Counterfeit Prevention Act."
Thank you for including H.R. 3668, the "Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011" in this important hearing about the security of the pharmaceuticals upon which our constituents, seniors and children all rely.
I am proud to have introduced H.R. 3668 with my colleague, Representative Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania. I am also pleased to note that the Senate counterpart, S. 1886, which was introduced by Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Charles Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed the Senate by voice vote earlier this month. This demonstrates that this legislation is needed, bipartisan, and non-controversial. I strongly encourage this Committee to swiftly move this legislation to a mark-up, and from there, to the House floor.
Why is it so important to move this legislation? Because our constituents deserve to know the medicine they put into their bodies is safe and effective. While all of our districts are impacted by counterfeit pharmaceuticals, I would like to describe an incident that occurred near my home in Southern California.
In Los Angeles, a mother and son went looking for some relief from their nagging colds at what they thought was a health clinic. Unfortunately, what they were told was medication didn't just make them sick, it sent them to the hospital.
The mother reported that as soon as the "vitamin injection" hit her bloodstream, her heart started racing. Then, her lips went numb and she started getting excruciating headaches. After that, she started passing out. She lost 30 pounds in a week and her pancreas stopped working.
This frightening story shows the dangers of fraudulent medicines are very real, and the consequences can be fatal.
The Swiss drugmaker Roche, which produces the popular cancer drug Avastin, recently became well acquainted with this rampant problem.
Roche is still investigating how phony vials of Avastin made it to nineteen oncology practices in the U.S. The FDA began notifying clinics about the questionable drugs in mid-February, but counterfeit Avastin might have made it to doctor's offices as early as last July.
Roche analyzed the vials of phony Avastin in February, and didn't find the active ingredient found in the cancer drug. However, they say they found traces of the chemical acetone--a solvent used in paint thinner. To date, there is no medical use for acetone.
Experts say that it's tough to gauge what harm a counterfeit cancer treatment can inflict on a patient because drug infusions are typically spaced out over weeks and months. So, in the span of six months, a cancer patient might have received up to twenty fake Avastin infusions.
That's twenty treatments that did nothing to improve the health of a patient suffering from cancer.
The list of drugs that authorities have found to be counterfeited is a long one. They include medications that treat cancer, Alzheimer's disease, ulcers, high-blood pressure and high cholesterol. Certain vaccines have even been counterfeited.
Counterfeit drugs account for an estimated $75 billion in annual revenue. Why are these criminals so bold? It's because, currently, the penalty for selling a counterfeit drug is the same as selling a bootleg DVD.
A DVD will not cause you bodily harm, but each year counterfeit drugs result in 100,000 fatalities worldwide. It stands to reason that we should have penalties in place that reflect the serious health dangers posed by these phony medications.
H.R. 3668 would be a strong step by this Committee in addressing this problem. This bipartisan, non-controversial legislation would increase the penalties for those who engage in trafficking of counterfeit drugs acting as an important deterrent to criminals and providing greater consumer confidence in their medication.
Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, and I again urge this Committee to quickly move H.R. 3668.