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Cal Western, UCSD hosts conference on pharmaceutical crime

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California Western School of Law and the University of California, San Diego will co-host a day-long conference Friday about two prevelant types of pharmaceutical crime.

The conference, “Pharmaceutical Crime: Investigating and Prosecuting Drug Diversion and Counterfeiting” will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Hilton Harbor Island in San Diego.

It’s being presented by California Western’s Institute of Health Law Studies and UCSD School of Medicine’s San Diego Center for Patient Safety.

Speakers will include a diversity of law enforcement, legal and medical experts from across the country.

Pharmaceutical diversion (using prescription drugs for recreational purposes) and counterfeiting are growing problems in the United States. Last year, $186 million in stolen pharmaceuticals ended up on the streets and in the suburbs for recreational use, double what was reported in the previous year. In 2010, there has already been $110 million in stolen pharmaceuticals reported.

Earlier this month, $75 million worth of pharmaceuticals was stolen from a warehouse in Connecticut. The drugs stolen were not the lifestyle drugs often targeted in this type of crime. Instead, thieves made off with life-saving pharmaceuticals like antidepressants, antipsychotics, cancer drugs and blood thinning drugs.

“This is not a theoretical issue,” said California Western professor Bryan A. Liang, director of the Institute of Health Law Studies. “Deterrence must be put into place to at least stem the tide of diversion and counterfeiting. We are particularly at risk being so close to Mexico where, according to the World Health Organization, up to 40 percent of the drugs are fake or substandard.”

Friday’s conference will address pertinent issues to deterring the prevalence of the crimes, including understanding the scope of pharmaceutical diversion and counterfeiting; articulating risk factors associated with drug delivery supply chains; identifying patient care risks associated with counterfeit and diverted drugs; and understanding how health care providers may participate in patient protection against diverted and counterfeit drugs.

“Health care providers, lawyers, and policymakers must understand each others’ perspectives and abilities to address the concerns and outcomes of fake and diverted drugs,” Liang said. “Challenging social issues do not give us the luxury of confining ourselves to a specific discipline. We need for all parties to join together, communicate, and act to protect patients and prosecute criminals, so that our families and loved ones never have to risk their lives on a suspect medicine.”

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