Federal authorities have arrested 11 South Florida men in connection to multi-million dollar drug thefts at the warehouses of Eli Lilly in Connecticut, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Virginia and others.
The 11 were indicted with 18 counts surrounding illegal possession, trafficking and attempt to sell stolen goods including controlled substances such as the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam. The indictments were unsealed Thursday in Florida federal court.
But the largest theft came from Lilly’s Enfield, Conn., facility where in March 2010 members of the group cut a hole in the roof to enter the warehouse and disable the security system, authorities said.
The men then used forklifts inside the facility to load their own trailer with 49 pallets — nearly $75 million worth — of prescription drugs including the company’s best-selling products, schizophrenia treatment Zyprexa (olanzapine) and the antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine) (DID, March 22, 2010).
Authorities are believed to have identified the suspects in part through a water bottle left at the scene of the Lilly break in, the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC) said Thursday. It’s not known whether investigators linked the bottle to the suspects through fingerprints, DNA or other forms of evidence.
Some members of the ring stole drugs, including diabetes and asthma treatments such as Advair (salmeterol/fluticasone propionate), from the GSK facility in Richmond, Va., in 2009. Others are charged with the cargo theft of the prescription acne drug ClindaReach (clindamycin topical) from a truck stop in Ohio and selling products stolen from a trailer at a Tennessee truck stop, the Justice Department said.
The 11 men were scheduled to appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Thursday and Friday.
The announcement of the arrests and indictments were met with praise from the pharmaceutical world. Lilly applauded law enforcement officials in a statement Thursday and said the stolen product has been recovered.
Industry Took Action
But the large number of thefts helped wake up the industry to become more aware of and take actions to prevent product loss. Lilly and others helped start a small handful of supply chain security working groups including the PCSC (DID, May 16, 2011).
Lilly has been vocal about the vulnerabilities it spotted and actively shared its experiences with others to help close loopholes, Chuck Forsaith, director of supply chain security for Purdue Pharma and chairman of the PCSC said.
“As a result, the supply chain security programs of a large number of large pharmaceutical companies have been strengthened,” Forsaith told DID. “The industry is getting better at identifying vulnerabilities and building stronger supply chain programs.”
In the first quarter, there have only been two thefts, Forsaith said, both rather small. That’s a significant drop from years past.
Cargo Theft Suggestions
Rx-360, another consortium of stakeholders working to strengthen the industry’s supply chain, has published a 20-point list of how to improve the security of pharmaceutical shipments, including:
- Perform due diligence evaluations on transportation partners and intermediaries before initiating a contract, assuring security expectations are detailed in contracts;
- Educate truck drivers on hijack awareness, prevention, rapid reporting of incidents and good data gathering;
- Provide drivers with a card listing policies and emergency contact numbers should an emergency occur;
- Make stealing a load as difficult and time-consuming as possible;
- Before truckers stop, they should notify their home base or dispatcher;
- Loads should not be parked, left or dropped at any location other than the approved destination; and
- All cargo thefts should be reported to the FDA, EMA and/or appropriate regulatory agency.
View the list of Rx-360 shipping recommendations at www.rx-360.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=uJmiNH4qaW0%3d&tabid=209.
View the indictment of the 11 men at www.fdanews.com/ext/files/05-07-12-Lilly.pdf. — David Pittman
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