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Counterfeit Drugs: How Much of a Problem Are They?

On Thursday, April 21 we discussed counterfeit drugs with Pat Ford, senior director of global security for Pfizer, and Robert Rutt, director of the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. Among the issues we’ll cover will be the safety of counterfeit medications, how prevalent they are and what pharmaceuticals and law enforcement agencies are doing to stop them.

 Counterfeit Drugs: How Much of a Problem Are They?(04/21/2011) 
Today’s webchat, “Counterfeit Drugs: How Much of a Problem Are They?” will be begin at 12 noon. Patrick M. Ford, senior director of global security for Pfizer and Robert Rutt, acting irector of the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center will take your questions then.

Thursday April 21, 2011 11:46
William Weir: 
Hello and welcome to today¿s Webchat, ¿Counterfeit Drugs: How Much of a Problem Are They?¿ We¿ll be discussing counterfeit drugs with Patrick M. Ford, senior director of global security for Pfizer and Robert Rutt, acting director of the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

Among the issues we¿ll cover will be the safety of counterfeit medications, how prevalent they are and what pharmaceuticals and law enforcement agencies are doing to stop them.

We'll take your questions now.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:00 William Weir
William Weir: 
Robert and Patrick, could you each give a brief explanation of your jobs in regards to curbing counterfeit drugs?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:02 William Weir
William Weir: 
Stay with us, readers, Robert and Patrick are having a technology progrm that we'll fix in a moment.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:06 William Weir
[Comment From Pat Ford, PfizerPat Ford, Pfizer: ] 
My job is to identify criminal organizations who are counterfeiting Pfizer products that are likely harmful to our patients. We refer those cases to law enforcement for the criminal prosecution of those who manufacture and distribute those products.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:18 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From Bob Rutt, IPR CenterBob Rutt, IPR Center: ] 
I oversee the IPR Center which has 17 agencies including ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, INTERPOL, FBI and FDA. The IPR Center coordinates anti counterfeiting efforts by the major federal law enforcement agencies involving in IP theft investigations. In addition the RCMP and Mexican Customs are partners at the Center. And we also partner with industry to attack counterfeiters
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:18 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
[Comment From Dan IDan I: ] 
Counterfeits seem like a problem with no easy solutions. What should we do to address the issue?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:19 Dan I
[Comment From Pat Ford, PfizerPat Ford, Pfizer: ] 
As a consumer or patient you should be aware of the dangers of counterfeits. The safest place to fill your prescriptions is with your local pharmacy.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:21 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
How effective is Customs at stopping importation of counterfeit drugs? What steps can product manufacturers take to assist Customs in this regard?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:22 Guest
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
As a manufacturer we regularly assist customs in identifying counterfeit product at our borders. On several occasions we have worked side by side in the mail centers identifying counterfeit product with the use of technology that can authenticate product. As a result, customs can use this information to immediately seize the product
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:26 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From Yashwant RajYashwant Raj: ] 
Which category of drugs is counterfeited the most? And who is the biggest source of counterfeited drugs -- where is most of it coming from?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:26 Yashwant Raj
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
The most counterfeited Pfizer product is Viagra. However we have seen more than 44 different Pfizer products counterfeited to include Lipitor, Norvasc, Aricept, and Prevnar13. Most of the counterfeit products originate from Asia.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:29 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From Laurel EuLaurel Eu: ] 
How can consumers detect counterfeit products?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:29 Laurel Eu
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
It is very difficult for a consumer to identify counterfeit products. Often these products require chemical analysis. As a consumer check for any unusual color changes, size, and or taste differences. If you suspect you may have received a counterfeit product you are encouraged to notify the brand manufacturer, doctor or your pharmacist.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:33 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From AshleyAshley: ] 
Aren¿t most of these retailers based overseas?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:33 Ashley
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
The distribution network for counterfeit pharmaceuticals is global, to include the United States. While most products are manufactured outside the US counterfeiters and distributers conceal their true locations in effort to deceive patients of the products origin. Products are regularly shipped to patients from the US to give the impression that the product was sourced from the US when in fact the origination location is unknown.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:36 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From JenniferJennifer: ] 
In your experience what type of organzational element is transporting the counterfeit drugs? Does it range? For example is it registered business conducting illegal acts through trucking and transport methods, mail fraud, individuals (dealers), gang affliated transactions etc...
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:36 Jennifer
[Comment From Bob Rutt, IPR CenterBob Rutt, IPR Center: ] 
DHS seized over 1 million counterfeit pills in fiscal year 2010 which are the latest statistics available.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:37 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
what steps can pharma companies take to reduce counterfeiting along the supply chain?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:41 Guest
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
The criminal organizations that we have seen generally attempt to disguise where they are located. They utilize fictitious return addresses on the packages containing counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Third party shippers like Federal Express and EMS are generally used to give an air of legitimacy to the transaction.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:41 Pat Ford, Pfizer
Bob Rutt, IPR Center: 
We see organized elements, entrepreneurs opportunists. The increased use of the internet allows consumers themselves to buy counterfeit direct either knowingly or unknowingly without go through a middleman.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:41 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
Generally speaking the US Supply Chain is the safest in the world. We work with a select group of authorized distributers that can only purchase Pfizer products from Pfizer or another authorized distributor.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:43 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From AshleyAshley: ] 
What is law enforcement doing to stop these illegitimate retailers?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:44 Ashley
Bob Rutt, IPR Center: 
In the past 18 months ICE Homeland Security Investigations criminal investigations often times working with industry partners and the Food and Drug Administration have resulted in 22 criminal convictions individuals involved in counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:45 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
[Comment From SteveSteve: ] 
What sort of impact do these counterfeiters have on business and the economy as a whole?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:46 Steve
Bob Rutt, IPR Center: 
For example, from October 5-12, 2010, the IPR Center participated in an International Internet Week of Action dubbed Operation Pangea III in concert with INTERPOL, World Health Organization, World Customs Organization and the Permanent Forum on International Pharmaceutical Crime. As part of Operation Pangea III, 43 countries conducted enforcement actions targeting counterfeit and/or substandard pharmaceuticals and medical products being sold via the internet. In the United States ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, CBP, FDA, Postal Inspection Service and DEA conducted operations at international mail facilities and express courier consignment facilities throughout the U.S. Worldwide during the one week period of Pangea III over 1 million illicit and counterfeit pills - including antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids, arthritis medicine, lifestyle drugs and diet pills - were seized. Over 75 individuals were arrested and 290 websites were taken down.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:48 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
[Comment From AshleyAshley: ] 
I understand Congress is considering legislation to get rid of websites that sell counterfeit and pirated items ¿ such as counterfeit drugs. They call these rogue websites. Can you tell me more about this legislation and your thoughts on the legislation?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:50 Ashley
Bob Rutt, IPR Center: 
American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material and produce counterfeit trademarked goods. Criminals are attempting to steal American ideas and products and sell them over the Internet, in flea markets, in legitimate retail outlets and elsewhere. From counterfeit pharmaceuticals and electronics to pirated movies, music, and software, IP thieves undermine the U.S. economy and jeopardize public safety. American jobs are being lost, American innovation is being diluted and the public health and safety of Americans is at risk - and organized criminal enterprises are profiting from their increasing involvement in IP theft.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:51 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
Counterfeiters endanger the health and safety of our patients. Patients who unknowingly take a counterfeit product and encounter adverse reactions are deprived of the therapeutic benefit intended by the medication prescribed by their doctors. As a result a patient may stop taking the medication and or be switched to a medication that doesn¿t provide the same benefits.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:52 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From LaurieLaurie: ] 
Do other agencies/organizations play a role in preventing counterfeit drugs to enter the supply change or in making it more diffictult to counterfeit drugs?
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:53 Laurie
Bob Rutt, IPR Center: 
In the United States, ICE, CBP, FDA, the Postal Inspection Service, the FBI and many local law enforcement agencies including State Attorneys General offices attack the counterfeit pharmaceutical problem.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:56 Bob Rutt, IPR Center
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
I understand there are several legislative proposals under consideration. Pfizer supports legislation that would prevent criminals from distributing counterfeit pharmaceuticals via the internet. I would recommend if you are purchasing you pharmaceuticals on line that you purchase from a VIPPS certified site. These can be found at
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:56 Pat Ford, Pfizer
[Comment From JoeJoe: ] 
what are your thoughts on the practical use of design patents as a form of protection from counterfeits as oppose to registering trademarks
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:57 Joe
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
I am not an expert in the design patent area. We utilize trademarks to identify our products.
Thursday April 21, 2011 12:59 Pat Ford, Pfizer
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
Correction: I would recommend if you are purchasing you pharmaceuticals on line that you purchase from a VIPPS certified site. These can be found at
Thursday April 21, 2011 1:00 Pat Ford, Pfizer
William Weir: 
We'll be wrapping up the webchat in about 5 minutes. Pat and Robert, do you have any closing thoughts?
Thursday April 21, 2011 1:01 William Weir
Pat Ford, Pfizer: 
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss counterfeit pharmaceuticals and their dangers to our patients. If you would like more detail regarding counterfeit pharmaceuticals please feel free to visit our website at or the Pharmaceutical Security Institutes website at
Thursday April 21, 2011 1:03 Pat Ford, Pfizer
William Weir: 
Pat and Robert, thanks again for taking the time to take part in today's webchat. Readers, thanks for your great questions.
A replay of this chat can be seen at
Thursday April 21, 2011 1:04 William Weir
Bob Rutt, IPR Center: 
Remember if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is not the true product. Consumers should only purchase products especially on line from verified and trusted suppliers. Thank you for inviting me to participate today. I invite you to visit our website at to learn more about our work.
Thursday April 21, 2011 1:05 Bob Rutt, IPR Center

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