Cargo theft hype masks pharma containment efforts

Pharmaceutical cargo theft is big business, but don't let the stats conceal drugmakers' effectiveness in containing a problem that could be much worse.  The $76 million drug theft from an Eli Lilly warehouse in March 2010 was a real headline-grabber, but not the whole story.

Even recent drug thefts that are puny by comparison make the news. Reports often contain stats like the one from Freightwatch, which documents the quadrupling of annual pharma cargo thefts from a dozen incidents in 2006 to nearly 50 in 2010. Less often included, however, is the context stat that drug cargo thefts have stayed at that level for the last three years, says Pharmaceutical Commerce.

Freightwatch says the halt to the rise is likely due to "intense efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to harden the supply chain." And the article credits Chuck Forsaith, director for corporate security at Purdue Pharma, for "bootstrapping" the Pharma Cargo Security Coalition, which brings together drugmakers, law enforcement, government, cargo insurers, carriers and risk management advocates.

Among the big undertakings of the coalition so far is nothing short of a big pharma culture change: getting manufacturers to share information when cargo has been stolen. Subsequent intelligence gathering is yielding a more organized response to thefts.

- here's the story