Bennet-Backed Bill To Crack Down on Counterfeit Drugs Clears Key Committee Hurdle With Bipartisan Support

Bill Represents Latest Bennet Effort to Improve Drug Safety, Crack Down on Bad Actors

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan approval of a bill to crack down on counterfeit drug trafficking by stiffening penalties on bad actors.  The bill responds to recommendations made by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and the Administration’s Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Inter-Agency Working Group.

The bill has the backing of the AARP, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), and the National Association of Chain Drugs Stores (NACDS) among others.

The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act will increase penalties for the trafficking of counterfeit drugs to reflect the severity of the crime and the harm to the public.  While it is currently illegal to introduce counterfeit drugs into interstate commerce, the penalties are no different than those for the trafficking of other products, such as electronics or clothing.  The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act will target violators that knowingly manufacture, sell or traffic counterfeit medicines to the United States.

“Counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs are putting Coloradans at risk. In some cases the medicine you take may not be effective, in other cases it may make you ill, or worse,” Bennet said. “Right now, the penalties for producing a fake company logo on a bottle of counterfeit drugs are more severe than they are for actually making and selling a counterfeit drug. We can help prevent these drugs from reaching hospitals, pharmacies and consumers by giving law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on these crimes.”

“The counterfeit drug trade is a multi-billion dollar a year criminal enterprise that threatens the health and safety of American consumers," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  "Senator Bennet and I worked closely with our Republican counterparts to craft bipartisan legislation that will deter this conduct.  Senator Bennet’s leadership on protecting Americans from dangerous counterfeits, while working in a bipartisan manner, has been a key to the progress of the  legislation.”

It has been reported that counterfeit drugs result in 100,000 fatalities globally each year, and account for an estimated $75 billion in annual revenue for criminal enterprises.  

“Dangerous health consequences including unexpected side effects, allergic reactions, or a worsening of their medical condition can result when an individual receives a counterfeit prescription medication,” said Joyce Rogers, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at AARP.  “We share the belief that penalties for engaging in this illegal conduct deserve a higher penalty to reflect the severity of the crime and potential harm to the public.”

“NACDS and the chain pharmacy industry applaud Senator Bennet's leadership in taking steps to protect American consumers by advocating for stricter sentences for criminals in the counterfeit medicine business. Presently, the federal penalty for a counterfeiting crime is typically three years. We believe that stronger deterrents, as provided in your legislation, are more appropriate for these potentially deadly crimes involving counterfeit medicine,” said the National Association for Chain Drug Stores.

“ASOP enthusiastically the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2011,” said Libby Baney, a Vice President at B&D Consulting and an advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies. “While it is important to recognize that all counterfeiting activities are both illegal and detrimental to our economy, counterfeit medications pose a unique and grave threat to the health and welfare of unsuspecting Americans. As such, those who endanger the lives of others with these illegitimate drugs -- whether sold online or offline -- need to face more severe penalties for their reckless actions.”

The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act represents the latest effort by Bennet to improve drug safety, crack down on bad actors and protect Colorado consumers. It has the support of Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Members Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Earlier this year, Bennet penned an op-ed for Politico titled, “How Safe Is Your Medicine Cabinet?”, which laid out the case for comprehensive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reform that protects patients from potentially dangerous and adulterated drugs. He also delivered the keynote address at the Pew Charitable Trusts’ conference in March titled, “After Heparin: A Roundtable on Ensuring the Safety of the U.S. Drug Supply,” in which he highlighted the need for increased industry and regulatory controls to protect patients and ensure the safety of drugs in the United States.

Last year, Bennet introduced the Drug Safety and Accountability Act of 2010, which would enhance the ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the pharmaceutical industry to ensure U.S. drugs are both safe and effective regardless of where they are made. For more information on this bill, please click here. He is currently working on an expanded bipartisan version of that bill to be introduced later this year.