Thoughts and responses on “Why Steal A Truck Full Of Drugs”

Our recent roundtable discussion post, “Why Steal A Truck Full Of Drugs” generated a lot of attention for this usually obscure policy issue.  One reader who is a veteran colleague of drug diversion enforcement, Carlos M. Aquino at PharmaDiversion, LLC, wrote:

I just read, “Why Steal a Truck Full of Drugs?” and I have to remind all that selling stolen drugs is not as easy as it was mentioned. For example, DEA has an ARCOS reporting system for C-IIs and C-III narcotic products which requires all distributors to report all sales of these products. Also distributors are required to maintain records of sales. All DEA registrants know this from their experiences with federal and state regulatory entities.

Look at the reports of thefts of cargo and in most cases they are found intact because of GPS trackers or that the perpetrators have no clue how to dispose of it. In some cases the shipment is gone and in most cases taken to Mexico to be sold. They don’t have the same regulatory requirements that U.S. manufacturers and distributors have to deal with on a daily basis . Purdue Pharma is not the only manufacturer that has low thefts of cargo.

When you talk to the dark side of the pharmacy industry, they will tell you that they won’t take the chance especially if they are on the law enforcement’s cross hairs.
I think that the article would have been a little bit better if you had statistics that would give the article more creditability. Show me numbers that would show that stolen drugs are sold to U.S. pharmacies. Show me the number of shipments stolen from manufacturers versus their recovery. The intent of the article was honorable but the message it left was enough for me to write this email. Show me the stats. Thank you.

PSM Board member Marv Shepherd responded:

There appears to be rise in the number of pharmaceutical cargo with most involving the stealing of trailers or the tractor and trailer.  In 2005 there were 17 cargo heists, in 2006 there were 10, in 2007 there were 19, in 2008 there were 29, and as the end of August 2009 there have been 17 heists (source  As can be seen the trend is increasing and probably it involves millions of dollars for each cargo theft.

As you pointed out where the products goes is difficult, but like you my feeling is that many are smuggled out of the U.S.  However, I would not rule out some getting back into the US distribution system as is evident in the recent FDA announcement that patients have purchased the some of the stolen Novo Nordisk’s Levemir and have suffered from sub-therapeutic effects probably due to the fact that the product was not stored properly after the theft and had deteriorated (insulin is very temperature sensitive).

Stealing controlled substances and reselling presents added problems, but other prescription products are less of a problem in the US because of our lack of unit of use packaging.  Pharmacists have very narrow gross margins and when given an opportunity to improve the GM [gross margin] some are will take the chance.   In a northwestern state, an investigator wanted to determine how easy was it to sell prescription drugs out of the back of his van to pharmacies.  He drove up to the store, made his sales pitch he found that 6 or 7 out of 10 pharmacies visited were willing to buy the product.  The number just shocked him and me.

Thanks for your insight and comments. Much appreciated.