Some background first. Drugs sold in American brick and mortar pharmacies and through websites verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) VIPPS program or mail order firms are almost always safe. Drugs bought through other outlets – such as rogue websites with post office boxes in other countries – are unsafe  and at times, downright deadly. These drugs are purchased by people who have been fooled by the false claims on well designed websites. Because of these criminal Internet-based enterprises, the federal Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator estimates that 8 percent of bulk drugs coming into the U.S. fail to meet safety standards, while 10 percent of the global drug trade deals with similarly unsafe medicines. There have been major thefts of tractor-trailer shipments of prescription drugs – and, some of these medicines have found their way to the shady peddlers as well. Theft is a problem because the second any drug leaves the carefully controlled and policed supply chain, it becomes nearly impossible for anyone to know where it’s been stored, how it’s been handled and whether or not it’s become contaminated. And this presents a health risk to anybody who takes any type of medicine.

All this means that the United States cannot let its guard down when it comes to securing the drug supply here at home. The Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to fight counterfeit online drug peddlers in concert with major search and Internet access providers deserve full support in Congress. Even in a divided political environment, it’s a commonsense public safety step everyone should be able to support. To confront prescription drug theft, Congress should also move forward on a law proffered by Sens. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump MORE, Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE, Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharWeek ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Some Dems sizzle, others see their stock fall on road to 2020 Consumers the big winners of Amazon-Whole Foods merger MORE and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE that stiffens penalties and provides law enforcement agencies with new tools to crack down on the criminals that steal or resell drugs. Every major theft of pharmaceutical cargo could conceivably endanger hundreds of lives.

Given the Internet’s role in moving counterfeit drugs, the United States cannot address the entire problem on its own. Effective laws, for the most part, have driven fly-by-night “pharmacies” out of this country. But the criminals that direct these enterprises still prey on Americans. Many maintain post office boxes in English-speaking countries like Canada and the UK but sell unapproved medicines manufactured in Asian and Middle Eastern countries with minimal or no quality control standards. While there’s no way to drive all of them out of business, coordinating with  foreign governments, Internet search providers, and international organizations can make a real dent in the problem and secure safe medicines for everyone in the United States.

Counterfeit medicines, in short, pose a real, continuing problem. The United States government has taken steps to deal with them and now, it must help lead other nations to begin doing the same.

Thomas T. Kubic is President & CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and a former Deputy Assistant Director at the FBI. He also serves on the board of the Partnership for Safe Medicines.