20 January 2004 20:42 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--A US House panel has asked five major pharmaceutical firms to detail plans for combating counterfeit drugs and unapproved drug imports, CNI learned Tuesday.
House Energy and Commerce Committee investigators have sent letters to top executives at Eli Lilly, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Serono. The committee asked the companies – which produce drugs often targeted by counterfeiters, according to US authorities – to provide the information by 16 February.
The committee asked the companies to describe their plans to prevent the counterfeiting and diversion of their products and to detail their discussions with federal, state or local agencies regarding those issues. The companies also were asked to describe what actions they have taken related to Internet-based or foreign pharmacies.
Congressional investigators noted that J&J had been the first to disclose a plan in early December to require wholesalers and distributors to purchase its products directly from the company. Pfizer soon did the same, and GlaxoSmithKline is reportedly considering ways to track its pill bottles electronically, according to the letter.
The committee, chaired by Representative Bill Tauzin (Republican-Louisiana), started examining the problem toward the end of last year as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased efforts to interrupt the flow of imported drugs from Canada and other foreign countries.
The FDA has said the number of counterfeit and potentially dangerous medications crossing the US border is increasing. The committee also cited news accounts that a growing illegal trade in pharmaceuticals has undercut the US regulatory system.
The letter said: "The result of this multi-billion dollar shadow market has been that US public health is endangered because of the introduction of counterfeit, unapproved, substandard, or adulterated drugs into the America’s medicine supply."
Efforts by US regulators to stop illicit drugs from entering the country have coincided with efforts by a bi-partisan group in Congress, state and local officials to legalise drug imports from Canada, which typically cost less than drugs purchased in the US.
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