Why pharmacy theft can be more dangerous for consumers

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Thefts typically target items such as clothing, jewelry, accessories, and electronics, all of which have high resale value. But when thieves attack pharmacies, the stakes rise.

Many items stolen from these vendors are regulated, such as over-the-counter drugs and infant formula. If these items are then closed – when a buyer knowingly accepts stolen goods for resale – quality standards that ensure efficiency and safety can no longer be guaranteed.

“If it hasn’t been stored properly, it won’t work – so you’re wasting your money, this is the best case where it’s economic fraud by a scammer,” David said. Spangler, senior vice president of legal, government and policy affairs. to the Consumer Health Products Association. “The worst-case scenario is that it’s stored in such a way that something is wrong or has been tampered with and you might experience some kind of harm that you never should have been exposed to.”

When licensed pharmacies and verified vendors sell over-the-counter medicines and food items like infant formula, they are complying with certain federal regulations to ensure these items are effective and safe to consume. They take care to handle and store things under the proper specified conditions and to remove the items when they are about to expire. When these items are stolen and resold, these standards and guarantees can no longer be guaranteed.

“When a manufacturer or distributor sells items to a retailer, they know the exact conditions under which they are stored,” Spangler said. “Not everything will be sensitive to heat or cold, but some things are. Take a nicotine patch, these are not expensive products but this adhesive may melt if exposed to certain conditions. Then there are those products that are intentionally falsified.

Rich Rossman, vice president of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, or CLEAR, has seen firsthand how some of these stolen items are handled.

“I have done a lot of surveys in South Florida. It’s not uncommon for these groups to start in the morning and continue throughout the day for a week at a time, ”said Rossman, who is also a sergeant in the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. “But they might not meet their fence every day, so they keep [the stolen goods] in their car. “

This means that the items can be subjected to extreme heat or cold.

“Think about the diabetic test strips that people rely on for their health,” Rossman said. “It’s more than loss for retailers, it’s security. You are not only part of the problem, but you are also putting your health and safety at risk by purchasing these items.

You are not only part of the problem, but you are also putting your health and safety at risk by purchasing these items.

Experts agree that one of the reasons people steal these items is that there is a strong market for these types of products online.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Jason Brewer, executive vice president of communications for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “It all comes down to the ease of reselling products online – that’s what has driven the increase we’re seeing. If, in the end, you try to fix this problem, you must make it more difficult to resell these products online.

Brewer said marketplaces that allow third-party sellers like those at Facebook and Amazon are being watched, but not extensively enough.

“The markets don’t even follow their own declared policies and pull back the products they claim they don’t sell,” Brewer said. “You can do a quick search for over the counter drugs, they are all over these markets. “

Ashley Settle, spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company, Meta, said the platform requires products and services sold on the site to comply with its policies, which include a ban on the sale of stolen items. . The company advises people who see items they believe have been stolen to report the ad to the Meta site or file a police report.

Amazon said it spent more than $ 700 million and employed more than 10,000 people to prevent fraud and abuse in its online marketplace last year.

“Amazon does not allow third-party sellers to list goods stolen from our store, and we work closely with law enforcement, retailers and brands to arrest bad actors and hold them accountable, including by restraining funds, terminating accounts and making law enforcement referrals, “Amazon spokeswoman Mary Kate McCarthy told NBC News in a statement.

Spangler said many manufacturers are also monitoring these markets in an attempt to prevent the sale of illegal or counterfeit items. But it’s a huge business that can be difficult even with the right teams in place.

“Someone can create a virtual storefront online, sell for a few days, then walk away with another name. Markets will not always be able to move and withdraw items in real time, ”he said.

Legislative efforts are underway to try to reduce the sale of these potentially dangerous items.

The law Stopping Harmful Offers on Platforms by Screening Against Fakes in E-commerce, or SHOP SAFE, aims to prevent the sale of counterfeit products by encouraging platforms to filter and control sellers and products, to penalize repeat offenders and to provide consumers relevant information.

And on Thursday, the CEOs of 20 retailers, including those of Rite Aid Corporation, CVS Health, and the Walgreens Boots Alliance, signed a letter calling on Congress to pass the Integrity, Disclosure and Fairness in Business Act. online retail markets for consumers, or INFORM Consumers, Act. .

This would force online marketplaces to authenticate the identity of ‘high volume third party sellers’, with the aim of deterring the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods and’ preventing retail organized crime networks from stealing items from retail stores. stores to resell these items in bulk online. ”The law would also allow consumers to see the basic identification and contact information of these third-party sellers.

“Criminals take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of some marketplaces to verify their sellers,” the letter said. “There is no simple answer to stopping organized crime from retailing or selling counterfeit products, but transparency is key to stemming the tide of these growing problems. “

For consumers looking to stay safe, Brewer and Spangler urge them to buy only from well-known retailers.

“When it comes to over-the-counter drugs or baby products and foods, consumers should avoid third-party markets altogether. The products could be counterfeit, stolen, expired or tampered with, ”Spangler said. “Buyer, beware: if you think you’re getting a lot of over-the-counter drugs in a marketplace, you’re getting something that’s either stolen or counterfeit. “


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