Senate Judiciary to consider drug counterfeiting

“Often these counterfeit pharmaceuticals are manufactured overseas and sold to American consumers through rogue websites on the Internet,” Leahy said in a statement on the floor. “This must be stopped.”

The report by CBS’s “60 Minutes” program depicted consumers purchasing counterfeit medicines packaged in convincingly labeled bottles and imprinted with an authentic looking brand name like Pfizer or Baxter. In some cases the pills contained floor paint, sugar and wax.

Director of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Enforcement David Elder said in an interview with CNN’s Sanja Gupta, also featured in the “60 Minutes” report, that the Justice Department currently lacks the tools it needs to combat the illegal trade.

“Our resources certainly haven’t kept pace with the volume of products coming into the country,” said Elder. “We don’t have the authority to actually destroy these products on-site. The products could very well come back through another mail facility.”

Leahy’s panel unanimously approved legislation late last year aimed at bolstering efforts to stop online copyright or trademark infringement, but the bill was never taken up by the full Senate.

“Rogue websites are essentially digital stores selling illegal and sometimes dangerous products,” said Leahy in the Nov. 18 hearing. “If they existed in the physical world, the store would be shuttered immediately and the proprietors would be arrested.”

A spokesman for Leahy said the issue is a top priority for the Judiciary Committee, although there is currently no hard schedule for when the committee might take it up.