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WASHINGTON, D.C.-- A terrorist attack against America's medicine supply is a growing threat to the United States that requires immediate attention, according to the report -- An Analysis of Terrorist Threats to America's Medicine Supply -- released today by GlobalOptions, Inc. and Reconnaissance International. While the U.S. medicine supply is the safest in the world, terrorists present a threat that we ignore at our peril.
"Step by step, terror groups are gaining expertise to produce and distribute fake drugs," the report states. "Sales of counterfeit drugs already have been used by terrorists to purchase arms and fund attacks."
Terrorists want to maximize panic and fear. They can readily purchase machines to produce tainted pills. The same packaging equipment that is available to legitimate pharmaceutical manufacturers can also be obtained by terrorists.
The report identified three main terrorist threats to the medicine supply:
* Terrorists producing and selling harmful pharmaceuticals -- The mere
infiltration of terrorists in the counterfeit drug market poses a threat
to the public. Terrorist organizations, because of their violent
nature, are likely to produce counterfeit drugs that are substandard,
contain harmful ingredients, or no ingredients at all. Their presence
in the marketplace creates dangers to public health and causes
uncertainty in the quality and purity of drugs taken by millions of
* Terrorists raising funds from pharmaceuticals for attacks -- Terrorists
have already used fake and illegal drugs as a source of revenue. In the
early 1990s, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) set up a laboratory in
Florida to manufacture phony vials of an anti-parasite drug for
livestock. Proceeds from the operation were sent to the IRA to purchase
arms. Terrorist organizations in the Middle East have reportedly
profited from the sale of counterfeit drugs sold on the Internet. In
Canada, Hezbollah gained access to large quantities of pseudoephedrine,
an active ingredient in many common cold remedies, and then smuggled the
drug across the border to clandestine laboratories in the U.S. for
production of methamphetamine, or "speed."
* Terrorists mounting an attack using drugs laced with poisons or
pathogens -- Terrorists have manufactured and distributed counterfeit
drugs, and are creating alliances with organized crime, which is active
in the illegal production and distribution of drugs. Terrorists have
launched attacks by placing poisons in food products. To paraphrase
Congressional investigator John Sopko, it may not be a matter of "if,"
but rather "when" terrorists will strike America's medicine supply
The report examined the government pharmaceutical regulatory systems and terrorist activity in Canada and Mexico -- two key points of entry for drugs coming into the U.S.
"Canada's refugee and immigration laws are among the most generous in the world, providing an open door for terrorists to operate in the country," the report states. "Terrorists have smuggled pharmaceuticals from Canada into the U.S. and they could mount an attack using similar distribution methods."
Looking southward, millions of Americans annually flood across the border to Mexico to purchase pharmaceuticals. Terrorists could insert poisoned drugs into the largely unregulated retail markets frequented by Americans.
An attack against the U.S. medicine supply system using the Internet offers the lowest risk to terror groups, but could be the most devastating to consumers. Terrorists, with limited skills, could set up an online pharmacy, generate a customer base, and then deliver tainted goods to unwitting consumers from virtually anywhere in the world.
The terrorists could employ the same deceptive tactics now used by fraudulent Internet pharmacies. In a sampling of 45 drug websites that appear to originate in Canada, roughly one-third seems to be located in other countries. Three sites were registered in Barbados, one was in Mexico, and five were in the U.S. An additional five were of unknown origin.
The report was prepared by GlobalOptions, Inc., a multi-disciplinary risk management company in Washington, D.C., for Reconnaissance International (RI), a publishing and consulting firm that specializes in anti-counterfeiting and anti-diversion issues.
Source: GlobalOptions, Inc.; Reconnaissance International