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Matheson Puts Tough Questions to Industry Gets Support of Bipartisan Bill to Keep out Counterfeit Drugs

Location: Washington, DC

Matheson Puts Tough Questions to Industry Gets Support of Bipartisan Bill to Keep out Counterfeit Drugs

Congressman Jim Matheson's bipartisan legislation to safeguard the prescription drug supply chain advanced after witnesses at a Congressional committee hearing voiced support Thursday. Matheson and Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer have introduced HR 5839—Safeguarding America's Pharmaceutical Act—with a major goal of creating a national, uniform tracking system for prescription drugs.

"I'm working to protect our nation's pharmaceutical supplies from domestic and international counterfeiting threats—threats that are a growing public health concern," said Matheson. "People need to know that when they take a prescribed pill it is real, undiluted and not laced with phony ingredients."

Evidence of the extent of the problem is increasing. 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.

At today's hearing, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official Dr. Janet Woodock testified that establishing a "chain of custody is imperative in order to provide transparency and accountability" to consumers regarding the prescription drug supply.

Matheson's bill creates a system by which drugs will be tracked from the time they leave the manufacturing facility to the time they reach patients in the pharmacy, hospital, nursing home or doctor's office.

A representative for McKesson Corporation—the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America—today voiced support for Matheson's legislation. McKesson has a Salt Lake County facility.

"As pharmaceutical distributors, our greatest priority is the security of the supply chain. For us, what's important is one standard." said Ron Bone, a McKesson senior vice president. "We believe that a track and trace system will also produce business efficiencies and decrease costs."

Matheson is pushing for his bill to be included in the final draft of comprehensive FDA overhaul legislation currently being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That larger bill is expected to be considered by the full House in the coming weeks.

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