BTW, Speaking about justice…

What Happens to all Those Stolen Drugs

Posted on: March 20, 2010


In response to yesterday’s story about the robbery of an Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut, our Ian Yarett talked to Dan Burges, the director of intelligence at FreightWatch International. Some of what he found out:

How frequently do prescription-drug heists occur?
In the early part of the last decade, there was some pharmaceutical theft going on, but there wasn’t a lot of attention placed on it. But in 2005 and 2006, it really took off. We reported 35 pharmaceutical thefts in 2007, and 46 each in 2008 and 2009. Thefts from trucks are most common; only three of the 2009 incidents were warehouse thefts. There have been 10 pharmaceutical thefts thus far in 2010, including the most recent Eli Lilly one.

What does this amount to in the grand scheme of things?
Well, 46 total pharmaceutical cargo thefts aren’t a huge number compared to, say, electronics thefts, which might occur 150 times over the course of a year. In our database, pharmaceutical thefts made up only about 5 percent of the total volume of theft incidents in 2009. But in terms of monetary value, pharmaceutical theft is astronomical. Cargo theft in the pharmaceutical industry in 2009 amounted to an average of $4 million per loss. The only thing that even comes close to that is the cell-phone industry, which averaged just over $2 million per loss.

Where do the stolen drugs generally end up?
In the United States, the most common route is down to South Florida, the Miami-Dade area. Then, drugs are shipped to Latin America, or sometimes Asia, often for sale on the black market and/or for counterfeiting purposes. There have also been reports of product being repackaged and reintroduced into the U.S. market or into other areas. In other cases, drugs are sold directly in the U.S. market, typically through nefarious online retailers. But I think it’s pretty unlikely that a U.S. hospital or pharmacy would acquire stolen pharmaceuticals.


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Lishia Erza

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