Pharmaceutical cargo thefts have become a relatively infrequent occurrence, but 10 years ago it was a much different story. The problem seemed to be spiraling out of control. Thankfully, the number of such incidents has slowed to a trickle over recent years. The primary reason behind this impressive shift can be attributed almost entirely to the dissemination of cargo theft alerts by FDA and the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition. The cascading publicity generated from these alerts and the saturation of this information within the supply chain has proven to be a mighty deterrent to cargo thieves and their drug diverting cohorts. These criminals are keenly aware that the intense spotlight from these alerts means they can no longer evade detection by law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
Nevertheless, a cargo theft that took place on May 3rd could signal an alarming new trend. According to FDA, a truck containing two partial lots of Octagam 10% was hijacked in Cornersville, TN on its way to Dothan, AL. This incident is unsettling because it suggests cargo thieves may be turning their attention to intravenous drugs, like Octagam, that are purchased by medical practices and administered to vulnerable HIV and cancer patients, among others. These savvy criminals may perceive that doctors’ offices are generally unaware of supply chain security threats, like cargo thefts. Additionally, they are likely quite familiar with the hundreds of letters FDA has issued to medical practices throughout the country that purchased unapproved, counterfeit, or otherwise unsafe prescription drugs from rogue distributors.
As a result, this cargo theft incident and any others on its heels should be closely monitored. Drug diverters may be targeting doctors’ offices for stolen drug sales because this subset of dispenser trading partners is not subject to the DSCSA’s product tracing or verification requirements and receives little oversight from regulators on supply chain security/product sourcing issues. To highlight this point, information about this theft could not be found on the Federation of State Medical Boards web site. Further, FDA’s letter campaign to medical practices indicates this group of DSCSA trading partners is susceptible to purchasing illegal foreign-sourced drug products, and perhaps even stolen drugs, from questionable sources. Time will tell if this most recent cargo theft is a worrisome harbinger or more of a one-off event.