Published Online: Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Concerns over prescription drug counterfeiting surfaced during the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's (NABP) Fall Educational Conference. A leading expert warned that organized criminals and "unscrupulous wholesalers" are endangering the nation's pharmaceutical supply.

In an address to the meeting, investigative reporter Katherine Eban told state pharmacy board regulators that "there is no bigger nightmare for a pharmacist than to discover [that] what is in the bottle is not what is on the label." That nightmare is happening more and more, however.

"Convicted narcotics dealers"are discovering "that there is more money in pharmaceuticals than in trafficking illegal drugs,"she said.

Eban, author of the book Dangerous Doses: How Counterfeiters Are Contaminating America's Drug Supply, contends that much of the increase in adulterated, expired, and counterfeit drugs can be linked directly to criminals. For example, the scheme to distribute counterfeit Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) was hatched in a Miami prison by a marijuana trafficker, she said.

Eban also placed blame on unscrupulous drug wholesalers who buy medications from Medicaid patients, remove the prescription labels, then resell those same drugs to the government.

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