Charles Forsaith - Purdue Pharma

The good cop who helped Big Pharma overcome a bad record

Name: Charles Forsaith
Title: Chairman, Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition; Director of supply chain security
Purdue Pharma

If you are dealing with people ripping off millions of dollars' worth of your products on a regular basis, then a 22-year law enforcement veteran is the kind of person you will turn to to do something about it. But Chuck Forsaith is more than just another ex-cop doing security work for an industry.

The Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC) led by Forsaith in a few intense years has helped change pharma's rep from that of having a soft underbelly and big payloads to that of being a hard target. The protection techniques that have come out of hours of analyzing trailer thefts and warehouse burglaries have become the model for many industries--think precious metals and electronics--that asked for insight after pharma started having tremendous results at deterring crime and recovering lost loads.

When the coalition was formed 6 years ago, things were looking ugly and getting worse. They hit a bad crescendo in 2009, when a gang pulled off a Hollywood-esque heist of $70 million worth of drugs from an Eli Lilly ($LLY) warehouse, using warehouse lifts to load up trucks before driving away with the goods. It turned into great headlines and low morale, and led the FDA to warn the industry that it had better get its collective act together. And so crimes were analyzed, information shared--reluctantly at first--and techniques to fight back were devised. Forsaith, who gives his employer Purdue Pharma Technologies credit for allowing him time, spread the faith far and wide, leaning on his 6th-grade teacher style of telling stories more than his experience as a drill sergeant to make points.

"It is really about getting on a soapbox," Forsaith said. "Last year, I did probably 20 talks and the year before, more than that."

But the proof is in the pudding when it comes to figuring how effective that has been. In 2010, freight security experts FreightWatch said pharma was averaging $3.7 million in losses for every theft, more than every industry from electronics to food to tobacco. Last year, FreightWatch logged only 30 pharma cargo thefts and losses averaged about $168,000. Oh and the gang believed responsible for the Lilly thefts was rounded up last year, with some help from the coalition, which has made sure law enforcement has a keen understanding of pharma's complexities.

Along the way, the work has also steered the electronics security industry toward products that are smaller and more effective. While requiring two-driver rigs in which a load is never unattended has been key to slowing thefts, it is electronics that allows rigs and loads to be quickly recovered. When the group started, it relied on a GPS device the size of a Kleenex box that required a wooden floor in a truck cab to get a signal. Now there are devices married to cellular technology that fit inside a 100-count bottle of pills, or several.

"The technology has been evolutionary and would have happened even without our input, but we have tried our best to influence the people who design these things," Forsaith said.

-- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)

Charles Forsaith - Purdue Pharma