Thieves steal $75 million of pharmaceuticals in latest heist

| 3/25/2010

Thieves stole an estimated $75 million in wholesale pharmaceuticals last week from a warehouse owned by drug giant Eli Lilly and Company.

The thieves climbed walls into a Lilly distribution center in Enfield, CT, broke in through the roof and disabled the building’s alarm system before making off with dozens of crates full of Prozac, Cymbalta, Zyprexa and cancer treatments.

The company issued recalls of all drugs stored in the same area. Stolen pharmaceuticals are often resold and eventually made available to patients, though many pharmaceuticals require specific temperatures.

“The U.S. pharmaceutical distribution system is tightly controlled and monitored, making it extremely difficult for stolen product to make it to patients through legitimate channels,” Fionnuala Walsh, Lilly’s senior vice president of global quality, said in a prepared statement.

“However, we will continue to work closely with local and federal law enforcement authorities, the FDA and our distribution partners to maintain the integrity of our drug supply chain.”

The heist is the latest in a string of expensive drug thefts.

The FDA is investigating the theft of several cases of infant formula taken from a truck stop in Richwood, KY, on March 13. The formula was owned by Mead Johnson Nutrition.

On March 3, H-E-B pharmaceutical products reported theft of over-the-counter and dietary supplements from a truck and trailer in Dallas.

According to logistics security provider FreightWatch International, truck stops are the most common location for cargo theft, although distribution centers and terminal lots are also common.

Anyone with information about stolen pharmaceuticals and supplements is encouraged to contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations by calling 800-551-3989 or by visiting the OCI Web site,

For medical information about the product, Lilly is available at 800-LILLYRX (800-545-5979).

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer