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Capitol Health Call
April 9, 2014

Curbing Counterfeit Drug Sales

Author Affiliations

Copyright American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2014;311(14):1389. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.3716

Members of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee are considering increasing monetary penalties and prison time for persons found to be selling counterfeit medications, especially those sold through illegal drug supply chains, such as rogue Internet pharmacies.

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, people who adulterate, misbrand, or counterfeit drugs face a maximum fine of $10 000 or 3 years in prison, while those found to be selling illegal narcotics can be sentenced to as much as life in prison or fined millions of dollars. These penalties were enacted in 1938 and have never been updated, raising questions as to whether they are effective deterrents for crimes that are highly profitable. One estimate suggests the return on counterfeit drugs may be 10 times greater than that of the sale of illegal narcotics.

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