Bill elevates drug theft to organized crime status

By moving medical theft under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, which was passed in 1970 to prosecute organized crime figures, legislators are hoping to add some teeth to drug theft penalties.

The proposal, introduced by six Senate Democrats, is motivated by the 350 percent rise in the value of drug thefts since 2007, reports the Boston Globe. The racketeering law opens the door to not just stiffer sentencing, but also law enforcement use of wiretaps in efforts to track thieves.

The bill also would plug a big loophole by criminalizing the acts of storing, transporting or changing labels on stolen medical products. The National Drug Intelligence Center tallies $184 million in prescription drugs stolen in the U.S. last year.

Big pharma is on the case, too. Abbott Labs, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Novo Nordisk have begun lobbying efforts by forming the Coalition for Patient Safety and Medicine Integrity.

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