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National IPR Center takes down drug counterfeiters

MEDIA RELEASE

Millions of people around the world rely on prescription drugs to treat medical problems like heart conditions, mental illnesses and cancer. They entrust that the medications they’re taking are indeed what the label indicates.

However, there’s a growing problem in the pharmaceutical industry. Counterfeit drugs have hit the market. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn’t take counterfeit drugs lightly.

“It is intellectual property theft,” said Robert Rutt, director of the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center. “But these criminals aren’t just stealing someone’s idea. They are playing with people’s lives.”

ICE works diligently to make sure that individuals and organizations that manufacture and market counterfeit drugs are prosecuted.

“In the last 18 months, investigations conducted by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in concert with industry partners and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), resulted in 22 criminal convictions for individuals involved in counterfeit pharmaceuticals,” Rutt said.

One of ICE HSI’s most significant cases involved Houston resident Kevin Xu. Xu’s company sold counterfeit drugs online and distributed them throughout the United States and United Kingdom, primarily through the mail and courier services. Legitimate wholesalers began selling these counterfeit drugs, not realizing that the products weren’t the real thing.

Ultimately, this led to three recalls of nearly $9 million of medication in the United Kingdom. Xu was prosecuted in 2009, ordered to serve 78 months in prison and pay restitution of $1.28 million.

“The increased use of the Internet allows consumers themselves to buy counterfeit direct, either knowingly or unknowingly, without going through a middleman,” Rutt said. “Remember if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is not the true product. Consumers should only purchase products, especially those purchased online, from verified and trusted suppliers.”

— Find out more:
IPR Center: www.IPRcenter.gov

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