The 2014 Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) Interchange event was held on September 18 in Washington DC. This was the fifth year of the event and every year it gets better. That’s why RxTrace has been a media sponsor of the event for the last four years. This year, I found every speaker to be compelling. Next year I am elevating this event to my “highly recommended” short list.
Attendance at the event has grown each year and this time they reached the capacity of the venue and were forced to cut off registrations some time before the day of the event. A number of RxTrace readers were present at the this year’s event but more ought to attend going forward.
The PSM interchange is a different kind of event. It’s not a “how to” event. Over the years, the speaker lineup has included State and Federal pharma regulators, criminal justice professionals (investigators and prosecutors), academics, politicians, pharmaceutical industry associations, medical professionals and occasionally, victims of counterfeit drugs. The audience includes all of the above, plus people from pharma manufacturers and patient advocacy groups. Solution providers are generally absent, not because they are barred, but because the attendees are not solution buyers. Instead, they lean toward the policy and government relations sides.
One of the primary threads of the Interchange explores the problem of rogue websites that sell drug products illegally to U.S. citizens, although every year there are presentations made by prosecutors and supply chain security executives about crimes committed within the legitimate supply chain.
One of the best things about the PSM Interchange is that they have a professional video company record all presentations and post some of them on YouTube, so even if you don’t attend the event, you can go back at your leisure and watch these high quality videos. You will find a consolidated list of links to the YouTube videos and slide decks of some of the presentations here on the PSM website.
Overall, this is the event that the search engine companies (including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others) and credit card companies (including Mastercard, Visa, AmEx and others) ought to be a part of, rather than just one of the subjects of. Why they do not attend this event I can’t explain, but considering that Google’s formal motto is “Don’t be evil”, you would think they would be a big supporter of the PSM and this event. But instead, at least one speaker discussed their efforts to get Google to do the right thing and help block rouge websites. Sad to say that it sounded like Google prefers to protect bad guys rather than pass up their revenue. You would think that after paying a $500 Million fine for doing so in 2011 they would take a more active interest in how to stop the marketing of substances that kill people, but maybe not.
Listen to Keynote speaker Jim Hood, Attorney General of Mississippi describe his experience with Google and others to interrupt access to illegal internet drug sellers in this clip:
Have you ever wondered about the details of how pharma supply chain criminals were captured and prosecuted, including the doctors, wholesale distributor and others who dealt in the counterfeit Avastin in 2012 and 2013 (see my analysis of these crimes in “How Counterfeit Avastin Penetrated the U.S. Supply Chain” and “InBrief: Illegally Imported Drugs Found To Be Counterfeit…Again”)? You need to watch this next presentation and panel discussion by Linda I. Marks, Sr. Litigation Counsel, Consumer Protection Branch, U.S. Department of Justice, Lindsay A. Kelly, Assistant U.S. Attorney Criminal Division, Cybercrime Unit, Eastern District of Virginia, U.S. Department of Justice, Jaime A. Peña, Assistant U.S. Attorney/Sr. Litigation Chief, Criminal Division, Colorado District, U.S. Department of Justice. I found this presentation incredibly interesting and if you are a regular reader of RxTrace, I know you will too. You will be amazed how evil medical professionals can be once they decide to abandon their oath to do no harm. Some of these stories should be made into movies.
Listen to my question to the panel at the 1:01:20 mark. I asked what parts of the new DSCSA might give these prosecutors additional tools that would make some of these (investigations and prosecutions) a little easier to accomplish? The answer, is that prosecutors prefer to use “meatier” statutes that have been more heavily litigated so they end up using more fundamental criminal charges, like smuggling, wire fraud and money laundering for example. I assume these charges also have the benefit of being more recognizable by people in juries.
Perhaps the most interesting presentations were made in the third panel called “The Impacts of Fake Online Pharmacies on Patient Safety” by Special Agent Daniel Burke, Sr. Operations Manager for Cybercrime Investigations Unit, Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (but speaking for himself), Kenneth “Mac” McCall, III, President, Maine Pharmacy Association, Libby Baney, Executive Director, Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, and Todd Brown, Executive Director, Massachusetts Independent Pharmacists Association.
Mr. Burke included more details about the counterfeit Avastin criminal cases from 2012 and 2013 and other cases. Mr. McCall talked about the problems with the 2013 law enacted in Maine that allows personal importation of prescription drugs. In case you haven’t been following this situation, listen to this presentation and you will be glad you don’t live in Maine. Basically the State has opened a year-round hunting season for counterfeiters to stalk their citizens. Ms. Baney ran down the list of accomplishments of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies over the last year. This organization is working with a large number of organizations—including internet website registrars, credit card companies and search engines—around the world to explain the problem of rouge drug sellers online posing as legitimate internet pharmacies and enlist their support in the fight against them. Mr. Brown explained the State regulations in Massachusetts that allow employers to promote programs that use foreign drug suppliers that have a higher percentage of counterfeit medicines in them. He provided examples of marketing statements that mislead employees into thinking the drugs they acquire through these programs are just as safe as those from a local pharmacy.
These are only a few of the very interesting presentations from this event. For more, visit the PSM site. I look forward to this event every year. I hope to see you there next year.