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Dangerous Liaisons: Terrorism and Pharma

Written by Dr. Boaz Ganor and Dr. Miriam Halperin Wernli

First published by PharmExec

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:

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.

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