The issue had come to her attention due to media coverage of New York teen Timothy Fagan, who I had represented. Tim had been injected back in 2002 with counterfeit Epogen after an emergency liver transplant at the age of 16. Tim’s drugs, it had ultimately been discovered, had been low dose 2,000 u/ml Epogen that was sold out the back door of a Florida pharmacy, “uplabeled” at a trailer park to 40,000 u/ml, a dose 20 times stronger, and sold back into the mainstream distribution system. His medication had been owned by at least 10 different companies around the country as they were traded through a vast secondary market of wholesalers before finding their way into his drugstore on Long Island and then his home. This was the source of a 60 Minutes story, among other national coverage, as well as a book. (See, Counterfeit Drugs Resource Page at my website, for background. And more on this blog at the counterfeit drugs label.)
The bill Assemblywoman Paulin now sponsors would force electronic pedigree labels on drugs from the point of manufacture through the distribution system. With the distribution system locked down, it would make it exceptionally difficult for counterfeiters to penetrate. I had first discussed this with her back in 2006 and was at her side for her first press conference on the subject.
While I hesitate to let readers see the too-serious side of me from an audio-visual perspective, the issue is, frankly, too important not to discuss. If counterfeits could make it into Tim’s house, they could make it into your house, my house or the White House. So here is the clip:
This legislation requires drug manufacturers to establish a pedigree for each prescription drug, requires every wholesaler to submit a bond of $100,000, punishes manufacturers and wholesalers who intentionally package, sell, transfer, distribute or deliver a counterfeit drug with a class D Felony, establishes a fine of up to two thousand dollars per violation for offending drug manufacturers, and authorizes criminal background checks for manufacturers and wholesalers.
But two things happened in the election. First on the negative side, Paulin’s Republican co-sponsor lost his Senate seat. Nick Spano (R-Yonkers) had hung on to re-election by a mere 18 votes in 2004, but this time lost. Paulin was bold to reach across the aisle to ask Spano to co-sponsor this bill — both pictured with me here after the press conference annoucing the legislation — especially given the vulnerability of his seat. But sound public policy comes first for this bill she cares passionately about. She now needs a new sponsor on the Senate side.
And second, on the far more positive side, Eliot Spitzer blew away his opponent to win the governorship. Since Spitzer as Attorney General started an investigation into drug distribution practices in New York, it is presumably a matter he knows and cares much about. One of the subpoenas he dropped in this investigation was on my firm, for the records that I have for representing Tim Fagan and investigating the problem of counterfeit drugs.
This bill is one of many in state legislatures across the country that have popped up give the extraordinary risks from counterfeit drugs that exists due to our leaky drug supply chain. Hopefully the holes can be plugged before more people are injured.