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Leahy, Grassley, Bennet, Blumenthal, Meehan, Sánchez Propose Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill To Increase Penalties For Counterfeit Drugs

WASHINGTON - (Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011) – U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Michael Bennet (D-Co.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representatives Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation Thursday to increase penalties for trafficking counterfeit drugs.  The legislation responds to recommendations made by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and the administration’s Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Inter-agency Working Group.

The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act will increase penalties for the trafficking of counterfeit drugs to reflect the severity of the crime and the harm to the public.  While it is currently illegal to introduce counterfeit drugs into interstate commerce, the penalties are no different than those for the trafficking of other products, such as electronics or clothing.  The Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act will target violators that knowingly manufacture, sell or traffic counterfeit medicines to the United States.

“While the manufacture and sale of any counterfeit product is a serious crime, counterfeit medication poses a grave danger to public health that warrants a harsher punishment,” said Leahy.  “This legislation will raise those penalties to a level that meets the severity of the offense.  Deterring this epidemic problem is a bipartisan effort.”

“Counterfeit medicines are some of the most profitable commodities for criminal organizations.  Purchases of counterfeit drugs by unsuspecting customers are growing at alarming rates, especially over the internet,” Grassley said.  “These drugs present a serious threat to the health and safety of people around the world.  It’s important we address this threat by imposing harsher penalties on criminals who counterfeit these medicines.”

“Counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs are putting Coloradans at risk. In some cases the medicine you take may not be effective, in other cases it may make you ill, or worse,” Bennet said. “Right now, the penalties for producing a fake company logo on a bottle of counterfeit drugs are more severe than they are for actually making and selling a counterfeit drug. We can help prevent these drugs from reaching hospitals, pharmacies and consumers by giving law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on these crimes.” 

“Counterfeit drugs threaten the health of consumers and undermine American companies,” said Blumenthal.  “This legislation will enhance the penalties for trafficking in these substances, helping us to crack down on the epidemic of illegal counterfeiting and ensure that our medicines remain safe and effective.”

“These illegal, unregulated, uninspected drugs create a false sense of security among purchasers when in fact they can be extremely dangerous,” Meehan said. “Not only are they a threat to public health and safety, but as a prosecutor, I saw the hand of sophisticated criminal enterprises behind the operations. Steeper penalties will help deter these criminals from continuing to break our laws and put people’s lives at risk.”

“As a mother, I want to know the medications my family is taking are authentic and, most importantly, safe.  The American people deserve to have peace of mind when they use medications,” said Sánchez. “Unfortunately, massive counterfeit drug enterprises continue to exploit the Internet to jeopardize the public’s safety and rob American businesses of millions of dollars in revenue.  This legislation not only holds criminals accountable, but it gives our law enforcement officers the ability to effectively go after counterfeit drug traffickers.”

It has been reported that counterfeit drugs result in 100,000 fatalities globally each year, and account for an estimated $75 billion in annual revenue for criminal enterprises.