How Big Pharma Is Fighting Counterfeit Drugs

CNBC investigates a shadowy network of criminals targeting life-saving prescription medications for HIV from companies like Gilead Sciences and Johnson & Johnson who buy the medications from patients desperate for cash. They then go to gray market distributors who sell the medications to pharmacies at a huge discount. A major case highlighted in the story in which some $230 million in counterfeit pills were distributed throughout the U.S., was run like an organized crime group, according to authorities. The kingpin, who was sentenced to a 15-year prison term, used the proceeds from the counterfeiting ring to fly to Las Vegas on private jets and gamble in high-stakes poker tournaments. In surveillance video, he’s seen with wads of cash at a casino. In an exclusive interview at Gilead headquarters, the company’s head of anti-counterfeiting and global product security details how drugs are diverted with fake labels and bottle caps and sold for less than $200 on the street, taking us inside the company’s “war room” where confiscated counterfeit pills and paperwork are stored. A convicted felon who got rich in from the counterfeit pill business explains how it all works and CNBC obtains a never before seen hidden camera video in which trio of counterfeiters is shown altering pill bottles in an apartment. Correspondent: Contessa Brewer Senior Investigative Producer: Scott Zamost Editor: Allison Stedman Animation: Michael Schwartz Photojournalists: Duane Poquis, Jacob Jimenez, Oscar Molina, Marco Mastrorilli, Roger Prehoda, Steve Weiss Audio: Steve Theroux, Lori Smith, Juan Merlo
Mon, 11 Dec 2023 14:00:00 GMT

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