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Theft of pharmaceutical cargo bound for H-E-B warehouse in San Marcos is part of national trenD

A truckload of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals that was bound for an H-E-B grocery warehouse in San Marcos was stolen in early March in the Dallas area, Examiner.com has learned.

The theft of the cargo, valued at $400,000, is part of a larger trend of high-stakes heists across the country involving millions of dollars worth of pharmaceutical shipments, experts say.

The theft of prescription drugs, from blood thinners to insulin, “has exploded in the last five years,” Marvin Shepherd, a professor at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy and an expert in prescription drug theft and diversion, recently told The Hartford Courant.

In the case of the pharmaceuticals headed for San Marcos, an entire truckload belonging to Perrigo Co. was swiped. The shipment was en route from a Perrigo distribution center in Martin, Mich., to the HEB warehouse. Perrigo is one of the biggest U.S. makers of generic and private-label over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and supplements.

The Perrigo load contained the hair re-growth treatment minoxidil, quit-smoking nicotine gum and lozenges, and various over-the-counter vitamins and nutritional supplements, according to an alert from the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition. The heist happened in the first couple of days of March.

The alert was reported by the Secure Pharma Chain Blog and SecuringPharma.com.

“Police have evidence that the driver was involved and have enough information to file theft cases on him and a second individual,” J.J. Coughlin, chairman of the SouthWest Transportation Security Council, told Examiner.com.

Initially, it was reported that the driver of the truck pulled up to a rest stop to take a shower and returned to discover his rig was missing.

While thefts of pharmaceutical cargo saw an upswing in 2008 and 2009, Texas is not prone to such crime.

The Perrigo case is the only pharmaceutical cargo theft reported so far this year in Texas, according to Dan Burges, director of consultancy and intelligence at Austin-basedFreightWatch International USA, a supply chain security firm. One theft each was recorded in 2008 and 2009 in Texas, compared with four in 2007 and none in 2006, he said.

By contrast, 12 pharmaceutical cargo thefts have been logged so far this year across the country, Burges said. The number stood at 46 in 2009, 46 in 2008, 35 in 2007 and 11 in 2006, he said.

“The upturn is probably because the organized criminals involved in these types of thefts have a ‘black’ market for these products,” Coughlin said, “along with the fact that they (the pharmaceuticals) have high value and are hard to trace.”

Chuck Forsaith, chairman of the Pharmaceutical Security Coalition, added: "When you go after a load (of pharmaceuticals) that's worth $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000, it's not a crime on a whim."

While the total volume of pharmaceutical cargo theft held steady from 2008 to 2009, the value nearly doubled, rising from $2.1 million for an average loss per heist in 2008 to $4 million in 2009, according to Burges. As a whole, cargo theft is on the rise as well, he said.

By volume, pharmaceuticals account for only 5 percent of all cargo thefts, experts say.

Big-time pharmaceutical cargo thefts have occurred infrequently in Texas.

According to data supplied to Examiner.com by Burges, a tractor-trailer full of pharmaceuticals worth about $6.4 million was stolen in February 2008 in Royce City, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb. In April 2007, a rig stocked with iodine compound valued at $4 million was taken in Rains County, just east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

States that are considered hot spots for pharmaceutical cargo theft are Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Florida and California, according to Burges.

As for overall cargo theft, the states experiencing the biggest problems are Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and New Jersey, according to Coughlin.

“Cargo theft has been around for a long time for any shipped goods, and the pharma industry has been dealing aggressively with the particular problems of controlled-substances theft,” Burges told Pharmaceutical Commerce last year. “But there are now clear indications of organized theft rings going after high-value pharmaceuticals of any type … .”

John Egan

Austin Market Examiner





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Somehow this doesn't surprise me. Especially since the economic crash. I'm surprised we don't hear about things like this more often.

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The shipment was en route from a Perrigo distribution center in Martin, Mich., to the HEB warehouse.

Pharmaceutical regulations need to be implemented to avoid this.

I hope the situation is different now. Let's kick the year off with less crime.

Regulations have to be implemented. This is true for medical situations.

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