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National News

Panel Finds Florida Lax on Monitoring Drugs

March 4, 2003

A criminal element that makes millions while putting patients' lives at risk has corrupted Florida's wholesale drug industry, and the Florida Department of Health has failed in its duty to protect them, a statewide grand jury said Thursday. The panel blasted the state health department and its Bureau of Statewide Pharmacy Services for failing to enforce laws meant to protect the state's most vulnerable residents -- AIDS, transplant and cancer patients -- from unscrupulous drug wholesalers.

"An alarming percentage of drugs flowing through the wholesale market have been illegally acquired" via theft from pharmacies and hospitals; purchases on the black market by individuals defrauding insurance companies and Medicaid; or illegal importation, the interim report said. A 1993 state law requires drugs to have documentation showing all the hands they passed through on the way to the patient. The investigative panel said that neither this law nor an updated version in 1996 has ever been enforced, in part due to industry objections.

In Fort Lauderdale, the grand jury heard testimony of one case in which counterfeiters relabeled drugs to overstate their strength by as much as 2,000 percent. "If you're an HIV patient in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, you have enough problems. The last thing you need are drugs that don't work. If you're taking antiretrovirals and they're not real, that's a big problem," said Thomas Liberti, AIDS director at the Florida Department of Health. Patients should consult their doctor if their medicine looks different or if they are not responding to the medication as usual, said Dr. Gene Copello, executive director of Florida AIDS Action in Tampa.

The grand jury recommended making it a felony to accept a shipment without verifying its legitimacy, and giving Florida the power to shut down firms that break the law as well as confiscate questionable drugs. The panel also said the state should improve background checks for wholesale licenses and inspect facilities more often.

Back to other CDC news for March 4, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
02.28.03; Nancy McVicar; Bob LaMendola

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on Counterfeit Drugs for HIV/AIDS and Related Conditions