Watch our new ad: "Congress: Don't invite global drug counterfeiters to the U.S. Drug Supply"
As the pandemic upended our daily lives, illegally-imported counterfeit products flooded into our communities.
Criminals all over the world moved quickly to exploit fear and take advantage of disrupted supply lines in March 2020.
Americans were—and continue to be—deluged in fake COVID-19 treatments, fake home test kits, contaminated hand sanitizers, fake testing sites and more. The counterfeit market threatened our healthcare workers, too: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized over 35 million counterfeit N95 masks in fiscal year 2021 alone, and despite their hard work, hundreds of thousands reached hospitals where people most acutely needed protection from the virus.
And, as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reported in May 2020, criminal fake online pharmacy networks that were already selling Americans subpar medicines were also swift to cash in. Networks like Rx-Partners, which lost 67 domains to a Homeland Security seizure in 2016, rolled out entirely new templates or added COVID-19 related images to their existing cookie-cutter website templates to catch the attention of worried Americans. Other scammers cashed in on COVID-19-related URLs to sell medical products that didn't exist.
Fake COVID-19 test kits seized in El Paso, May 2020 (Source: CBP)
Foreign counterfeit drugs made with fentanyl are killing a record number of young Americans.
Over the same period, Mexican cartels built relationships with Chinese chemical companies and took over the manufacture and sale of the fake prescription pills loaded with fentanyl and fentanyl analogues that have been killing Americans since 2015. After seizing more than nine-and-one-half million counterfeit pills in the first nine months of 2021, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a nationwide alert about fake pills made with fentanyl or methamphetamine—the first they'd issued in six years.
These drugs, which are usually made to look like prescription opioids, Xanax or Adderall, were already available on the street and the dark web in 2020, but in the last two years drug dealers have begun selling them on social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
The results have been disastrous:
- CDC's National Center for Health Statistics estimates that more than 71,000 Americans died of fentanyl poisoning in 2021, a 20% increase from the year before.
- In places like Pima County, Arizona, fentanyl is the leading cause of death for 13- to 19-year-olds.
Law enforcement is doing their best, but they can't do it alone.
U.S. law enforcement has a long history of catching foreign drug counterfeiters in Canada and elsewhere. Since 2006 they've prosecuted Canadian pharmacists selling Americans fake Lipitor, and cancer drugs with no active ingredients; shut down fake pharmacy websites shipping us unregulated and demonstrably substandard prescription medicines from overseas suppliers, and stopped eastern European criminals trying to sell us counterfeit versions of cancer and hepatitis drugs.
But regulators and law enforcement are stretched to the breaking point protecting us from these products.
CBP agents working at our International Mail Facilities (IMFs) have to find suspicious pharmaceuticals and deadly fentanyl pills in a system that takes in more than 275 million overseas packages each year. Together with their counterparts at ports of entry, they can only find and seize just so many fake medicines.
The Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigation (FDA-OCI) took 130 enforcement actions counterfeit medicine traffickers between 2016 and 2021. They removed millions of dangerous drugs from circulation, but with 11,000 rogue pharmacy websites selling Americans unregulated drugs they are dwarfed by the size of the counterfeit medicine market.
Congress: Take action against proposals that invite global counterfeit criminals into our drug supply.
The U.S. drug supply is safe because of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. U.S. regulators rigorously inspect and license everyone who handles our medicine and track every bottle of prescription medicine from the manufacturer until it reaches the patient.
Importation would open our drug supply to foreign medicines that cannot be traced so confidently. A foreign drug seller that sold counterfeit products would be harder to find. If U.S. authorities did locate them, they would not have jurisdiction to stop them, and international investigations take an extraordinary amount of time and resources.
U.S. regulators and law enforcement already have their hands full with pandemic counterfeits, fentanyl pill trafficking cartels, and the existing fake pharmacy ecosystem.
Please vote against foreign drug importation proposals that would burden them further, and give international drug counterfeiters such an open invitation to our drug supply.