Black market in prescription drugs booms

Oct. 6, 2003 at 4:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- A new class of criminals dealing in prescription drugs has created a booming drug black market in the United States.

Federal regulators say the market has grown because of tight regulations controlling prescription drugs.

Drug enforcement agencies say they are noticing an increase in counterfeiting and drug diversion cases involving popular brand name drugs such as Procrit, Lipitor, and the impotence pill Viagra and the AIDS-related drugs Serostim and Combivir.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says medications generally are diverted to the black market or back to wholesalers. The culprits include employees who steal from hospitals, clinics and pharmacies and even the wholesalers themselves and also patients who resell their prescriptions on the street for quick profits.

The FDA's counterfeit task force has recommended a multi-pronged approach. Among them, it suggests manufacturers ship their products in smaller units of size, making it harder for counterfeit pills to be mixed with authentic ones by repackagers.

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