Dangerous Liaisons: Terrorism and Pharma

Jun 30, 2013

The US commission studying the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attack on New York and Washington concluded that America's vulnerability resulted from a "failure of imagination"—specifically, a failure to envision the improbable but possible use of hijacked airlines as weapons of mass destruction. To date, no pharmaceutical company's scientists or technology have been traced to a domestic or international act of terrorism. Yet despite the absence of any documented attempt to exploit gaps in current pharma security via direct or cyber-based subterfuge, we have analyzed the risks and are prepared to caution the industry against at least three other "failures of imagination"—even if they appear unlikely today. These are:


Getty Images/Jeffrey Hamilton
» The potential for terrorists to steal via cyber-theft confidential proprietary technology or materials directly, or through contracted surrogates.

» The potential for a disgruntled or blackmailed employee—or a new employee who has been inadequately screened—to exploit opportunities from within a company to introduce toxic contaminants into the final production stages or packaging of medicines or vaccines.

» The potential for terrorists to gain access to pharmaceutical and biologic technology and apply it in such a manner as to inflict chemical or bio-terrorism indiscriminately, placing thousands—even millions—of people at risk.