Theft of Medicines from Hospitals as Organised Retail Crime: The Italian Case

Ernesto Ugo Savona, Marco Dugato, Michele Riccardi

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According to recent judicial and investigative evidence, theft of medicines is emerging as the new frontier of pharmaceutical crime (Council of Europe, 2015; Interpol, 2014; Pharmaceutical Security Institute, 2017). The aim of this chapter is to furnish better understanding of the drivers, actors, and modi operandi behind this criminal activity. To do so, it presents the results of a pilot study carried out by Transcrime on the theft of medicines from Italian hospitals (see Riccardi, Dugato, & Polizzotti, 2014; Riccardi, Dugato, Polizzotti, & Pecile, 2015), which covered the period 2006–2014, and integrates it with further case studies and investigative evidence. Theft of medicines from hospitals may be considered a specific type of retail crime for two main reasons. First, because it occurs at the very end of the supply-chain, i.e. where products (in this case, medicines) are dispensed to consumers (in this case, patients). Second, because, at first glance, it follows the same modi operandi of other crimes against commercial activities—i.e. theft from depots and shops, burglary against transport couriers, involvement of employees (in this case, nurses, doctors and hospital staff). This chapter goes somewhat further by exploring two hypotheses: 1. that stolen medicines are ‘laundered’ through fictitious wholesalers and then resold on the legal market, exploiting the asymmetries of the pharmaceutical supply-chain; 2. that this crime requires a high level of organisation, and that organised crime groups are directly involved in the activity. In this regard, theft of medicines is presented as a paradigmatic example of organised retail crime carried out with traditional methods but conducted— especially in the ‘product laundering’ stage—by structured organisations of professional thieves supported by white-collar criminals able to infiltrate legitimate businesses and to operate on a transnational basis. The chapter is structured as follows: section “Theft of Medicines as Pharmaceutical Crime” introduces and defines the theft of medicines; section “Why Theft of Medicines Is Attractive for Criminals” discusses the factors on the demand and supply sides which make theft of medicines attractive to criminals, and it illustrates the theoretical background and the research questions of this research; section “The Present Study” describes the methodology, the data and the results of the analysis of thefts of medicines from Italian hospitals; section “Conclusions” discusses research and policy implications.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteRetail Crime
EditorV Ceccato, R Armitage
Numero di pagine29
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2018
Pubblicato esternamente


  • Theft medicine


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