In-transit cargo thefts are rapidly declining, says Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition

New emphasis will be placed on last-mile courier holdups

Over the past four years, the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition—an all-volunteer, industry-led group of security and transportation managers in the US life sciences industry—has bootstrapped an online network into a force in preventing or minimizing thefts of trailers, vehicles or warehouse break-ins. At its national meeting, held Jan 22-23 recently, the PCSC chairman, Purdue Pharma’s supply chain security director, Chuck Forsaith, presented data on results for calendar-year 2012: 30 cargo thefts, down from 2011’s 36. The dollar value of losses has dropped even more dramatically: from an average of $585,000 in 2011 to $168,219 last year. In 2009, when the effort got started, there were 47 thefts and the average value was over $4 million.

PCSC, says Forsaith, is simply an information-sharing network. When a member company sustains a theft, word is communicated to all other members, and to local, regional and national law-enforcement agencies. (Some states or locales, such as the Miami area, have a dedicated cargo-theft investigative group; in other cases, it’s the local state police office. Nationally, FBI and Customs and Border Patrol have investigative responsibilities, but their responsiveness tends to be limited.) Private security efforts, such as the real-time monitoring systems of FreightWatch International (Austin, TX), SC-Integrity, Inc. (Canton, MA) and CargoNet, Inc. (Jersey City, NJ), among others come into play when a PCSC member is using one of their GPS tracking systems on the truck or in the cargo. Ironically, an example of how all this works occurred just as the PCSC meeting was getting under way: the trailer of PCSC member was hijacked at a Georgia truckstop, but tracked and recovered by local police within two hours of the theft.

Forsaith told meeting attendees that going forward, the group is going to focus more closely on last-mile courier deliveries, which generally occur when a driver with a car or small truck is making local deliveries to pharmacies or clinics. These constituted nearly half of all thefts PCSC recorded in 2012, but the delivery companies don’t have the technical resources that exist for long-haul trucking companies.

Cargo theft of pharmaceuticals has a different level of consequences than the theft of other cargo: To obtain value, the thieves need in some fashion to re-introduce the products into commercial distribution (arguably, with the exception of controlled substances, which have their own black market). Instances of such re-introductions have occurred sporadically in the past few years, putting not only the entire lot of that drug at risk of recall, but presenting a near-term threat to patient safety.

Information on PCSC is available at www.pcscpharma.com.