Counterfeit drug seizures fell significantly in 2012

The Department of Homeland Security said it stepped up efforts to stop counterfeit products last year but ended up intercepting significantly fewer counterfeit pharmaceuticals than the year before.

The numbers are not clean because the agency lumps personal care products with pharmaceuticals. According to its fiscal 2012 report, it seized drugs and personal care items with a value of $83 million based on the manufacturers' suggested retail price. That was down 41% from the $141.8 million worth of products seized the year before. China and India were the main sources, with China and Hong Kong accounting for $59.3 million and India, $5.3 million. The report said the department did intercept 1,200 shipments containing 7 million suspect pills as part of an effort to target fakes coming out of Asia. That was in addition to 5,319 parcels containing unapproved drugs it found in international mail deliveries. With industry estimates suggesting that counterfeits cost pharma about $75 billion a year, the intercepts are a drop in the bucket.

Last year, law enforcement authorities did have a couple of laudable wins in their efforts to slow unapproved and counterfeit drugs from getting into the U.S. They got a guilty plea and a four-year prison sentence for Andrew J. Strempler, the man who founded Canada's to ship cheap meds to retirees and others in the U.S. They had been chasing him since about 2006 when he sold the business and fled to the Caribbean. He sold the business to the owner of a competitor,, a company U.S. officials also have warned against selling unapproved drugs. Companies associated with it were the source of counterfeits of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer drug Avastin that were found in the U.S. last year, reports have found. The FDA also recently warned doctor groups that Botox that they bought through affiliates was unapproved and potentially counterfeit versions of Allergan's ($AGN) wrinkle-removing drug.

Authorities internationally have stepped up efforts against Internet pharmacies, which are often the vehicle for selling unapproved, and often counterfeit, meds. An effort headed by Interpol last year closed, at least temporarily, thousands of Internet pharmacy sites. The sweep also resulted in 79 arrests and the seizure of 3.7 million doses of either unlicensed or fake drugs. Even with stepped-up efforts, there are signs that drug counterfeiting is growing and becoming more sophisticated.

- here's the report (pdf)