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Longer punishments are poor fake drug deterrents; academic

By Nick Taylor , 29-Mar-2012

An academic has questioned the wisdom of longer maximum penalties for counterfeiters at a House meeting to discuss sentencing.

Earlier this month the high-profile fake Avastin (bevacizumab) case helped push a law to double the maximum sentence for counterfeiting through the US Senate. However, at a House subcommittee hearing the proposal was met with scepticism by some people.

Studies regarding the impact of increasing the severity of sentences for criminal offences…indicate that such policies…unfortunately do not have the desired impact”, Lucien Dervan, assistant professor of law at Southern Illinois University, told the House subcommittee on Wednesday.

Citing these studies, Dervan questioned if doubling the maximum statutory sentence to 20 years is an effective deterrent. “Increased focus on and funding of the investigation and prosecution of certain classes of offences may be more effective at curbing such criminal behaviour”, Dervan said.

The theory is that “increasing the likelihood of apprehension and conviction can have a significant deterrent effect”, Dervan said. Giving the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers is one possibility. House Democrats broadly agreed and the FDA representative also asked for new powers.

FDA can benefit from new legislative authorities that are, at a minimum, commensurate with those of its major global counterparts”, Dara Corrigan, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA, said at the subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security meeting.

Corrigan said longer maximum sentences could also “help to deter would-be criminals from targeting drug products” and other speakers at the session backed the proposal for tougher punishments.

While the manufacture and sale of counterfeit products are serious crimes in any context, counterfeit medicines pose a grave danger to public health that warrants a harsher punishment”, Thomas Kubic, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, said.

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