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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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March 17, 2010

Theft at Eli Lilly

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Posted by Derek

$75 million dollars worth of antipsychotics - that's a lot of pills, and I'm not surprised to see that the thieves used a tractor-trailer to haul everything off. You'd have to assume that there's a well-worked-out pathway to unload all of these things, and that no one's going to go to all this trouble on "spec".

Glad to see that my industry's products are so much in demand. . .

Comments (25) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Current Events


1. anon the II on March 17, 2010 10:56 AM writes...

Was it all antipsychotics? It would be good to know that, now, if you order some See-Alice from an online pharmacy, you might actually get the real stuff.

I suspect that the price that they are quoting is retail and the loss to Lilly will be substantially less.

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2. DLIB on March 17, 2010 11:13 AM writes...

These kind of heists always have a much better risk to reward ratio than a bank...the trucks are not under armed guard and are easy targets. For a while out here in Silicon Valley gangs would grab trucks that had finished wafers and chips in them -- ready black and grey market to sell them in asia -- and worth tons of money!!! I also think the penalties are less for stealing 100 million dollars this way then stealing 100 thousand at a bank.

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3. You're Pfizered on March 17, 2010 11:17 AM writes...

2- They didn't steal a tractor trailer, they actually broke into the building and LOADED one up with multiple pallets of the drugs, then drove away.

I liked the cutting a hole in the roof and rappelling down into the building to turn off the alarm, myself.

Can you say 'inside job'?

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4. Anonymous on March 17, 2010 11:21 AM writes...

it is a wholesale price (according to the linked report).

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5. Dave on March 17, 2010 11:30 AM writes...

IANAL: Don't forget that bank robbery is a federal crime, while burglarizing a pharmaceutical company is (usually) only a state crime (same as robbing a grocery store). Toss in the fact that there is no parole for federal crimes, while there is usually liberal parole for state crimes, and this shifts the risk/benefit ratio even farther. Also, factor in the fact that bank robbery usually involves violence (weapons, threats, explosives), which may tempt a jury/judge to impose a stiffer sentence, while burglarizing a pharmaceutical company is usually violence free, and this may influence the judge/jury (assuming the perp even gets caught). Plus, there's also the "robin hood" approach, where the perp is seen fighting against the large, evil pharmaceutical company, and the risk/benefit ratio is even farther skewed.

Besides, maybe the perp isn't planning on selling the stuff; maybe he's intending to take it himself!

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6. Sean on March 17, 2010 11:30 AM writes...

I wonder if this will turn into a Robin Hood scenario gone terribly wrong.

'Here take this'

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7. Anonymous on March 17, 2010 11:57 AM writes...

I suspect that the Lilly executive team will solve this problem the same way our industry solves every other problem they face: offshore corporate security to Chindia.

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8. Anonymous on March 17, 2010 12:17 PM writes...

Dave reminded me of an incidence that happened to me in grad school a long time ago. After a long day in the lab, I came home to my apartment to find all the kitchen drawers open and on turning the corner into the living room, I saw that my stereo was gone along with my roommate's camera. I called the cops.

"I've been robbed, my stereo is gone," I complained to the person answering the phone.

She calmly asked me if I was present when it was taken.

I told her, "No, I came home and my stereo was gone".

"Well then, you weren't robbed" she said.

"If I wasn't robbed, where the hell is my stereo?" I asked.

"You weren't robbed, you were only burglarized", she answered, "I'll send someone over shortly."

Damn!, I never saw my stereo again and I can't even say I've been robbed. But now I do know the difference.

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9. gyges on March 17, 2010 12:35 PM writes...

"$75 million dollars worth of antipsychotics"

Just imagine if it was an inside job ... USD 75 million insurance plus whatever you can get for sticking on counterfeit labels and selling it.

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10. PharmaHeretic on March 17, 2010 12:36 PM writes...

OT but interesting..

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2010) — A quest that began over a decade ago with a chance observation has reached a milestone: the identification of a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals. The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges, and some species of salamander.

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11. anchor on March 17, 2010 12:41 PM writes...

I get an impression that the robbers were depressed...

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12. Anonymous on March 17, 2010 1:32 PM writes...

Holy crap, this happened in my hometown. Must have been done by some international crime syndicate, since I can guarantee you that the locals don't have the brains to pull this off ;)

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13. InfMP on March 17, 2010 2:25 PM writes...

I hope it was people who got layed off.

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14. Another Kevin on March 17, 2010 2:48 PM writes...

@anon the II (#1):

I thought the point of antipsychotics was that patients wouldn't see Alice. At least if she isn't there.

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15. J-bone on March 17, 2010 3:05 PM writes...

Kevin, see Alice = Cialis

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16. Fred on March 17, 2010 3:24 PM writes...

That's enough anti-psychotics to treat the whole GOP.

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17. John Thacker on March 17, 2010 6:00 PM writes...

That's enough anti-psychotics to treat the whole GOP.

But not enough to treat the Democrats, eh?

(Hate bringing politics into it, but that was a setup.)

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18. Tohri Airons on March 17, 2010 11:41 PM writes...


Please bear in mind that left wing wackos are just the Chiral Enantiomers of Right wing wackos. Same goes for left wing and right wing 'Moderates' Same basic building blocks, different effects.

Something tells me the toxicology report may be the same.

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19. Notadrugchemist on March 18, 2010 8:38 AM writes...


If they were chiral, one would be beneficial and one wouldn't.

It's more likely that they are diasteromers.

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20. J-bone on March 18, 2010 8:54 AM writes...

If they were chiral, one would be beneficial and one wouldn't.

Not necessarily, they could both be beneficial (although to potentially different degrees), or they might both be useless. In reference to politicians, I think the latter is more true.

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21. sgcox on March 18, 2010 9:15 AM writes...

#19 "It's more likely that they are diasteromers"

typo: should be "disastromers"

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22. Scott on March 18, 2010 10:32 AM writes...

Geek humor gone terribly wrong.

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23. laughing on March 19, 2010 5:54 PM writes...

anonymous 8, I am rolling on the floor. Great story!

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24. Jonadab the Unsightly One on March 19, 2010 9:23 PM writes...

> burglarizing a pharmaceutical company is
> (usually) only a state crime

IANAL either, but I think that might depend on how much you take. If so, $75 million wholesale is likely to be over the limit and automatically invoke Federal jurisdiction.

One supposes they probably found a customer who will assume the goods are grey market (because they can get better prices that way, and also because selling that kind of quantity on a normal black market is more likely to get you caught). If so, that would have to be a foreign buyer, some place where patent law doesn't make grey-market pharmaceuticals illegal. Probably sold through an intermediary, so as to obscure the source.

(They didn't say specifically which drugs were taken but I would guess, if the wholesale value was $75 million and the whole quantity would fit on one truck, that we're not talking about anything with an expired patent. Call it a hunch.)

This could be a tricky one to investigate, unless you've got suspects.

> maybe the perp isn't planning on selling

$75 million wholesale worth? They're selling.

> Geek humor gone terribly wrong.

The humor isn't too geeky until someone posts a limerick containing the long name of a complicated organic compound.

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