Delaware County Times
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, discussed legislation Friday that would increase penalties for trafficking counterfeit drugs.
Meehan was the prime sponsor of the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act of 2012, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
Meehan said his bill would increase penalties to allow maximum fines and prison terms of $5 million or 20 years, or both, for an individual’s first offense and $15 million or 30 years, or both, for subsequent offenses. In addition, businesses would be fined up to $15 million for a first offense and $30 million for subsequent offenses.
“One of the things few people realize today is that (current) penalties for someone trafficking counterfeit drugs are no different from somebody trafficking counterfeit purses or counterfeit sneakers,” Meehan said at Springfield Pharmacy & Medical Supply. “And now, today, there is no genuine disincentive because of the tremendous amount of money that can be made in this kind of an industry.”
Meehan said counterfeit drugs cause about 100,000 deaths worldwide each year, citing a World Health Organization statistic. Attempts to get more localized statistics about counterfeit prescription drug use were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.
Meehan, a former Delaware County district attorney and U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said the counterfeit market has grown over the last decade with increased use of the Internet.
Pharmacists Chichi Ilonzo Momah and Loc Dao said the bill would help protect senior citizens who can be harmed by drug interactions.
County Office of Services for the Aging Community Educator Coordinator Marie Bonita said elderly county residents can receive free health insurance counseling through APPRISE, a state run program which contracts services with COSA. In addition, she said the county offers a discount prescription card program.
Springfield Police Chief Joe Daly also lauded Meehan’s legislation, saying prescription drug abuse is on the rise.
Meehan said his bill was rolled into a Food and Drug Administration user fees reauthorization bill which also passed in the House last week. Under the reauthorization bill, the Food and Drug Administration will have more flexibility to inspect drug manufacturing sites overseas.
The bill was sent to the Senate for a final vote.