A piece of legislation scheduled to be voted on by the US House of Representatives this week would enhance fines and prison time for those found guilty of stealing medical products, including pharmaceuticals and medical devices. But the law contains a provision that could complicate efforts by third-party researchers to obtain and study counterfeit medicinal products for investigative purposes.
The legislation, known as the Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety Act of 2010 (SAFE DOSES Act), would make the theft of any medical device, pharmaceutical, biologic or other medical device a separate criminal act under Chapter 31 of the US Code. Also prohibited would be the falsification, alteration, forgery or labeling deceit of any medical product, including the possession, transport, sale or traffic of any such product.
The wording of the latter provision-informed possession of a counterfeit product-could subject researchers and consumers who knowingly purchase counterfeit products to enhanced fines, possibly complicating efforts by non-governmental organizations to track down and test illicit medications.
Penalties would be enhanced-up to thirty years in prison-if the person committing the crime is employed by an organization participating in the lawful distribution or purchase of the product, if the violation involves force or weapons, results in injuries to innocent persons or is a repeat offense.
Those found to have stolen more than $5,000 in medical products could face up to 15 years in prison, while those stealing less than $5,000 would be subject to up to three years in prison.
Penalties, too, would be steep. Violators of the act face a minimum penalty of $1 million, with escalating penalties possible depending on the scope of the theft.
The SAFE DOSES Act is scheduled to be voted on the week of 25 June 2012 and is sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety Act of 2010 (SAFE DOSES Act)