Pharma lobbies for tougher theft penalties

Drug and device makers have joined forces to raise the stakes for drug theft. They've hired a lobbyist to press their case in Washington.

Abbott Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Novo Nordisk have formed the Coalition for Patient Safety and Medicine Integrity. Lobbyist Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck represents the group.

Stolen drugs, often sold overseas, can reappear in the U.S. supply chain, posing a high risk of patient harm due to improper storage and handling. The coalition is fighting for sentencing commensurate with the risk posed to the public, rather than the more lenient penalties often accompanying truck and warehouse theft. Criminal law doesn't distinguish between tire and cancer-medication theft, coalition members say. 

The FDA suspects ties among several recent cases of adverse drug events and drug theft. These incidents are "most likely due to improper storage and handling" while drugs are in the hands of thieves, the FDA told drugmakers in a letter to warehouses last year.

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