Pharmaceutical-Based Cargo Security and Theft Prevention - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Pharmaceutical-Based Cargo Security and Theft Prevention
The author discusses strategies for preventing cargo theft.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 36, Issue 8, pp. 66-67

Systems, relationships, and improved awareness

Cargo theft is committed by criminals that also poison the supply chain with counterfeiting, diversion, and economically motivated adulteration. Pfizer addresses these threats holistically through a comprehensive supply-chain security program. Conveyance security is one of the key pillars of the overall program. When a logistics or transportation system is strengthened against cargo theft, the touchpoints across quality, security, procurement, and other functions also are strengthened. Cross-functional systems linkages will prevent and detect more than one system alone.

As with most security systems, layered defenses are required to prevent cargo theft, and no single device or approach can be effective against all potential threats. Each situation is unique, and the level of security should result from a comprehensive risk assessment of all factors involved. Lower risk solutions include options, such as panic buttons, specially designed trailer and truck locks, satellite tracking, documentation controls, and background investigations and probationary periods for drivers. As the level of risk exposure increases, other techniques, such as door alarms, remote temperature monitoring, roof markings on trucks that can be identified from the air, and using two drivers, can be added to (not used in lieu of) the lower-risk prevention methods.

Focusing effectively on cargo theft requires a detailed and organized set of protocols. For example, Pfizer created and implemented global, regional. and site conveyance security policies and standards called Conveyance Product Care Requirements (CPCR) to ensure the safe and secure transport of its products. These requirements are clear and concise and acknowledge that transporting pharmaceutical products and materials throughout the manufacturing, packaging, storage, and distribution processes from raw-material acquisition through delivery to the customer is an integral aspect of supply-chain security.

Transporting processes must also be in compliance with all applicable regulations and be performed in a manner that ensures the safety, identity, strength, purity and quality of products during all transit activities. To this end, Pfizer has a designated Conveyance Security Council that oversees the following:

  • CPCR management, implementation, and deployment
  • Global tracking device application and deployment review
  • Transportation risk analysis and threat matrix development
  • Carrier-security rating processes and approvals
  • Cargo-security protection methodology and decision matrix
  • Incident tracking and reporting programs
  • Seal use, application, and review
  • Regional conveyance security variance reviews and approval.

Conveyance activities are coordinated externally and across any in-house function that touches cargo conveyance, including global security, import compliance, legal, quality, risk management, business continuity, and other key functions. In addition to the CPCR, Pfizer functions work together to tighten security for warehouse standards and ensure the safe distribution of products to consumers in the marketplace. These processes are designed to protect the integrity of the legitimate supply chain against counterfeit goods getting in and to prevent legitimate product from being diverted or stolen.

Site and conveyance security also requires that companies develop close relationships with governmental agencies sponsoring supply chain security programs, such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to ensure compliance with regulations and to leverage current thinking and guidelines.

In addition, industry organizations such as the Technology Asset Protection Association (TAPA), the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC), and Rx-360, the international supply-chain consortium, are important sources of practical information and best practices. At the local level, intelligence networks and a regional knowledge base need to be nurtured so reliable information can be shared with logistics managers, allowing them to better plan and improve transit and logistics operations.

Regardless of where in the supply chain a theft occurs, it is ultimately the manufacturer's responsibility–if not legally, then certainly in the equally important arenas of ethics and public opinion–for assuring that all parties fulfill their duties for delivering safe and effective medicines to customers.

A large part of the solution lies in raising awareness of the problem and currently available solutions. Much has already been published and discussed about counterfeiting, but little has been said publicly about cargo theft. Criminals tend to aim for the weakest link in a supply chain; once a crime such as cargo theft has been committed, the security system has already gone wrong. In today's environment, the pharmaceutical industry cannot afford to be complacent. Manufacturers need to stay one step ahead of organized crime by developing and coordinating top-notch conveyance and logistical security practices throughout their organizations to assure product and patient safety worldwide.

Brad Elrod is director of global conveyance security for Pfizer Global Logistics Compliance at Pfizer.


1. A. Efrati and P. Loftus, "Lilly Drugs Stolen in Warehouse Heist," The Wall Street Jrnl., Mar. 7. 2012.

2. FDA, "FDA Urges Industry to Take Additional Steps to Prevent Cargo Theft" Press Release (Rockville, MD, Apr. 28, 2010),, accessed July 18, 2012.

3. P. Taylor, "Brazilian Thieves Make off with 760 KShipment," Securing, Mar. 2, 2012.

4. Freightwatch International, Global Cargo Theft report (Austin, TX, Feb. 21, 2011).


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