1 May 2011AmericasVaughn Volpi

Building operative partnerships with law enforcement

In its latest study, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) documented a 60 percent increase in arrests for persons involved in counterfeiting, diversion or theft of pharmaceutical drugs worldwide between 2008 and 2009. The PSI further reported that the sale of counterfeit drugs tripled between 2004 and 2009, resulting in worldwide annual sales of up to $200 billion.

Unfortunately, this meteoric rise, perhaps not so coincidentally, has taken place while the world is mired in the worst global recession in decades. In many places, unemployment is at an all-time high, forcing at least some to turn to illicit industries for work.

As money gets tight, people also look for lower-priced alternatives. Today, this often means turning to the Internet, which enables otherwise small criminal organisations to become worldwide players in the trafficking of illicit healthcare products in relative anonymity. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 50 percent of the drugs sold on the Internet from unauthorised sites are fake.

To make matters even worse, most law enforcement and corporate security departments have seen significant reductions in their personnel and/or operating budgets during this same period. This has forced them to narrow their focus.

For law enforcement, this typically means focusing on violent crimes, and for corporations, it means protecting the company’s assets and personnel. While most healthcare companies list their brands among the most valuable assets on their balance sheet and law enforcement agencies are genuinely concerned with public health and safety, sadly neither have the scope nor expertise to combat this increasingly sophisticated and global crime on their own.

For example, ports in Chile and Peru have increasingly become destinations for illicit products made in Asia. While interdictions and arrests in Chile and Peru have been on the rise, unfortunately there is rarely any follow-up action taken against the individuals in Asia who are manufacturing or distributing the product. The case ends and the criminal enterprise remains in place to ship products the next day. Obviously, law enforcement lacks the resources, connectivity and jurisdiction to dismantle these syndicates all on its own.

Even in these budget-challenged times, there is a way to successfully counter illicit product sales, secure the healthcare supply chain for patients and protect a company’s brand. The answer lies in building and investing in close operational partnerships with law enforcement.

Unlike other industry support groups, these operational partnerships are designed to build a practical working relationship between industry and law enforcement to target healthcare and IPR crimes. While there are a number of quality groups that fit this description around the world, there are two that every multinational corporation with brand security issues should join.

Cargo theft

One of the fastest-growing crimes affecting healthcare products is cargo theft. In the US alone, the FBI estimates that cargo theft accounts for up to $30 billion in losses each year. While the crime itself is relatively straightforward, it can have a wide-ranging impact for law enforcement, companies and consumers alike.

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