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Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. I thank the gentleman from Texas for yielding me this time.

I introduced H.R. 4223, the SAFE DOSES Act, to address the problem of medical cargo theft across the United States. Medical cargo theft poses significant health risks to patients who have no reason to know that their medicines have been stolen and improperly cared for before being sold back into the legitimate supply chain.

Stolen medical cargo can kill or injure those patients that need reliable, safe medicines.

Sophisticated and enterprising criminal organizations are stealing large quantities of medical products and selling them via the wholesale market into legitimate pharmacies and hospitals. They are putting patient safety at risk because improperly cared-for medical products can be ineffective or harmful, and such damaged products are often impossible for health care professionals to identify.

High-value pharmaceuticals, including treatments for serious diseases, are frequent targets. Unfortunately, these high-value items are the very type of sensitive products that need the most careful handling and temperature control. Many medical products can become ineffective if stored at the wrong temperature, even for a brief time. Yet, under current law, the theft of lifesaving medical supplies is treated the same as the theft of perfume or stereo equipment.

The criminal organizations hijack tractor-trailers at truck stops, break into warehouses and evade alarm systems, forge shipping documents, produce high-quality counterfeit labels with altered expiration dates and lot numbers, and otherwise thwart the intense security measures used by the industry. Some employ sophisticated surveillance equipment and techniques in order to learn exactly when and where they can steal the particular shipments they want.

For example, in March 2010, over $75 million of prescription drugs, including treatments for cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders such as depression, ADHD, and schizophrenia, were stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, Connecticut. The burglary was one of the largest pharmaceutical heists in history. The criminals broke into the secure facility on the weekend by cutting a hole in the roof, then rappelling into the storage area. They disabled the alarm system and loaded dozens of crates onto a tractor-trailer.

Experts have said that this heist shared many traits with warehouse thefts of pharmaceuticals last year in Richmond, Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Olive Branch, Mississippi. Those thieves also cut through ceilings and sometimes used trapeze-style rigging to get inside and to disable the main and backup alarms. In some cases, they sprayed dark paint on the lenses of security cameras; in others, they removed disks from the security recording devices.

This bill increases sentences for theft, transportation, and storage of medical product cargo; enhances penalties for the ``fences'' who knowingly obtain stolen medical products for resale into the supply chain; increases sentences when injury or death results from the ingestion of a stolen substance or when the defendant is employed by an organization in the supply chain; provides law enforcement with such tools as wiretaps; and provides restitution to victims injured by stolen medical products.

The legislation is supported by the Coalition for Patient Safety and Medicine Integrity, a group of pharmaceutical, medical device, and medical products companies whose purpose is to protect patients from the risks posed by stolen and improperly handled medical products reentering the legitimate supply chain. Members of the Coalition include Abbott and Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and PhRMA. The bill is also supported by the Association of Community Cancer Centers, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, and the National Fraternal Order of Police.

The companion bill in the other body, Senate 1002, was reported by voice vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to give law enforcement agencies and prosecutors the additional tools they need to confront this growing problem.

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