UC Law Journal


Adam Powell


Pharmaceutical counterfeiting is unique in the field of counterfeiting because criminals only attempt to copy the appearance of a drug, not its actual effect. Because such counterfeit drugs are cheap to make and ineffective or dangerous, counterfeiters see immense profits without regard for the potential for injury or death. Furthermore, the complexity of distribution channels and lax penalties result in little risk for criminals.

One potential tool to address this problem is an electronic pedigree system that would track shipments of drugs and reduce the opportunity for counterfeiters to infiltrate the supply chain. Unfortunately, such a system is years away from being effectively implemented. To compound the problem, soaring drug prices and a dwindling economy have led to calls for free importation from countries that have less expensive drugs. Yet many of those countries have counterfeit problems of their own.

Because of the risk to human life, safety must take priority over efforts to reduce costs. The best solution to pharmaceutical counterfeiting is a single bill that attacks the problem in steps that are implemented when certain objective criteria are met. First, criminal sanctions should be increased to at least match those of illicit drug trafficking. Next, e-pedigree should be implemented when technology advances to the point that it is affordable and reliable. Finally, once safety is assured, the bill should reconsider reimportation plans.

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