Bristol-Myers Truck Heist Shows Big Pharma Does Not Have Crime Under Control

Last Updated Nov 18, 2010 12:19 PM EST

An unmarked Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) truck filled with several million dollars of drugs was hijacked from a Florence, Ky., rest stop, underlining (again) the effect of spiralling drug prices during a recession in which 50 million Americans don't have healthcare coverage. Thefts of pharmaceuticals for black market sales are on the rise, according to Barry Conlon, a security executive with FreightWatch International:
... year-to-date, FreightWatch has recorded 27 pharmaceutical theft incidents, with an average loss per shipment of $5.1m, up from $4m in 2009. For comparison the company recorded 46 stolen pharma shipments in 2008, with an average loss value of $1.3m.
OK, so it wasn't the truck robbery scene from the Pacino/De Niro movie Heat, but it was serious nonetheless: The white, unmarked truck was left unattended for about 15 minutes after a crowded parking lot forced the driver to park far from the facility. Stolen products included the antihypertensives Avapro and Avalide, anticoagulant Coumadin, Abilify for schizophrenia, the HIV drug Reyataz and Plavix, an antiplatelet medication. Other recent Rx drug heists include:
Sure, some of these thefts are just illegal drug dealers who need supplies for their addicts. But the bigger ones -- including the recent BMS truck-jacking -- involve legit drugs. It's not a coincidence that the U.S. healthcare system is a target for criminals: With few incentives or mechanisms to lower prices, there is only upward pressure on drug costs, making drugs valuable objects with a high cash value. And with 50 million Americans without healthcare, there's a ready black market for cheap product.

And finally: Importing cheap Rx drugs from Canada for use in the U.S. is illegal. BMS's truck was headed north of the border -- yet another market distortion that keeps U.S. prices higher than everyone else's.


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