CVS Moves to Fight Rx Counterfeiting

May 25, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

CVS announced yesterday it was initiating a certification process to prevent the chain from buying prescription medicines sold by wholesalers that purchased the drugs on the secondary drug market.

According to a company release, wholesalers unable to demonstrate that they are buying directly from a manufacturer or other certified wholesaler will not have their contracts renewed.

CVS is taking this action over growing concerns about counterfeit medicines entering the market and being sold as legitimate to unsuspecting pharmacies and consumers.

The drug store chain and one of its customers were the victims of counterfeiting when CVS sold what it believed was Epogen, a drug that helps correct anemia in chronic kidney disease patients undergoing dialysis, but was not.

The rise of counterfeit medicines hitting the market has caused state attorney generals and legislators to consider various legal remedies to address the problem.

In a released statement, Chris Bodine, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing at CVS, said, “We are seeing numerous state specific legislative initiatives aimed at maintaining the safety of the pharmaceutical supply chain. Many of these initiatives, while well intentioned, are not practical from an operational perspective and cannot be supported through technology currently available. Therefore, CVS is taking what we believe to be the most effective means to ensure the continued integrity and authenticity of the pharmaceutical products that CVS dispenses to its customers.”

According to a Boston Globe report, secondary wholesalers “handle about 10 percent of the country’s drug supply.”

Moderator’s Comment: How big a problem are counterfeit drugs on the market? Will CVS’ action address the problem? Is governmental action also required?

George Anderson – Moderator

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3 Comments on "CVS Moves to Fight Rx Counterfeiting"

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Tom Zatina
Tom Zatina
15 years 9 months ago

It is a big problem that can become much bigger. As the cost (and value) of prescription drugs escalates, so does the incentive to get into the “counterfeit” drugs game. (Has anyone received less than 100 of those emails yet?) CVS should be applauded for taking steps towards closing some doors and protecting its customers.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
15 years 9 months ago
A little late to step up to the bar. I can only surmise that someone was/is about to blow the whistle on CVS utilization of offshore/across border suppliers. Let’s think about this for a moment. Isn’t CVS the largest or second largest drug chain in the USA? Do you think there is regular communication between their buyers and executives and those of legitimate drug companies? Don’t you think that the drug companies monitor their product shipments to wholesalers pretty carefully? Don’t you also think that the drug companies monitor sales of product from wholesalers to retailers like CVS? The fact is that the drug manufacturers know if their products are being counterfeited and they can easily spot a supply downturn at a wholesaler or retailer which would indicate that someone else is getting their business. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my experience is that one of the primary duties of anyone’s salesforce is to know these things are happening and make management aware. These same sales people will lose commissions/bonus when… Read more »
James Tenser
15 years 9 months ago

The media have already begun “coverage” of the problem of counterfeit prescription drugs in the U.S. market. An item aired on TV news 2 days ago (NBC, I think, but can’t confirm) detailing a woman’s demise attributed to counterfeit Procrit, a drug used to treat anemia in cancer patients. A similar plotline was the subject of a recent episode of “Law & Order SVU.”

With some pretty bad people out there willing to inject worthless or even harmful fake medicines into the distribution system, wholesalers and chain pharmacies must document the provenance of every prescription pill or vial they dispense. Period. This is an area where RFID technology may be helpful.

Unfortunately, the malfeasance of a few may also play into the hands of the pharmaceutical industry, which would like to fully control distribution of its products as a means of maintaining margins. Another part of a solution (which the wholesale drug distribution industry may be capable of pursuing) is to spot check and analyze randomly pulled doses from the supply chain.


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