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FDA warns of terrorist drug tampering

FDA warns of terrorist drug tampering

"Cues from chatter" gathered around the world are raising concerns that terrorists might try to attack the domestic food and drug supply, particularly illegally imported prescription drugs, acting Food and Drug Administration commissioner Lester M. Crawford says. In an interview with The Associated Press, Crawford said Wednesday that he had been briefed about al-Qaeda plans uncovered during recent arrests and raids, but declined further comment about any possible threats. "While we must assume that such a threat exists generally, we have no specific information now about any al-Qaeda threats to our food or drug supply," said Brian Roehrkasse, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. Crawford said the possibility of such an attack was the most serious of his concerns about the increase in states and municipalities trying to import drugs from Canada to save money. Crawford noted the 1982 Tylenol case, in which packages of the extra-strength variety of the leading painkiller were removed from store shelves on Chicago's west side, filled with cyanide and returned to stores for purchase. Seven unsuspecting consumers were killed, and the incident prompted widespread adoption of tamperproof packaging. "I would think that's something they would be looking at," Crawford said of terrorists. "Nothing like that has happened," he added. "But it is a source of continuing concern." The FDA is under mounting pressure--and faces a lawsuit filed by the state of Vermont--to soften its opposition to importing drugs from Canada, which is seen by many consumers and state and local government officials as a way to shave thousands to millions of dollars from drug bills. The FDA has held fast, saying it is concerned about the safety and effectiveness of the illegally imported drugs; Crawford says his top concern is that terrorists could strike at drugs. Some AIDS activists say the Administration opposes drug reimportation largely to help protect the financial interests of the nation's pharmaceutical companies, which charge top prices for their medications--including anti-HIV drugs--in the United States. Some also say Crawford's announcement about terrorist threats to reimported drugs is merely an attempt to scare U.S. consumers from purchasing cheaper medications from other countries. (AP, with additional reporting by

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