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Information on Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault
by Hoffman La-Roche, manufacturer of Rohypnol
April, 1999

One of the disturbing facts we have learned over the past couple of years is that there are several ways substances can be involved in sexual assault, and any of these can put someone in a high-risk situation. These include:

Deliberate use of a substance to sedate the victim
Recreational drug abuse
Unexpected medication reaction or interaction with alcohol or other substances.

Because of the media attention Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) has received, many people make the assumption that any substance-related sexual assault is attributable to that medication. In fact, many prescription drugs, illicit drugs and even alcohol can have similar effects.

In the May/June 1999 issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Dr. Mahmoud ElSohly of ElSohly Laboratories, an independent, Federally certified forensic toxicology laboratory in Mississippi, published the results of tests his lab performs on urine samples of rape victims who believe they have been drugged. Roche has paid for these tests as a public service, but has no involvement in the testing.

Results of tests that have been conducted over the past two years reveal the following: Of 2,222 urine samples submitted from June 1996 to April 26, 1999 from all 50 states, nine contained flunitrazepam, and of these nine, at least four samples also contained other substances. GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) was found in 69 samples.

Over 1,300 samples were found to contain other substances including alcohol (903), prescription medications such as amphetamines (148), codeine and other opiates (52) and several different benzodiazepines (a total of 317 samples), as well as several illegal drugs, including marijuana (408 samples) and cocaine (182). About 35% of the positive samples contained multiple substances. Samples were submitted by rape crisis centers, law enforcement agencies and hospital emergency rooms.

As the maker of Rohypnol, a prescription medication which has been used safely for 20 years in many countries around the world, Hoffmann-La Roche is very concerned about this issue, although the medication is not available in the U.S. Roche has taken many steps to ensure that our clinically beneficial medication does not fall prey to criminal activity.

Roche recently introduced a new formulation of Rohypnol which releases a blue dye and dissolves very slowly in liquids. The new formulation has received approval in 30 countries including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Britain, and most of Europe, and is awaiting approval from authorities in the rest of the 80 countries in which the medication is prescribed.

To halt smuggling, in 1996 we sharply curtailed the number of distributors of Rohypnol in Mexico, eliminated direct sales to pharmacies, and supported a U.S. Customs Service ban on its importation. The results have been gratifying -- the number of Rohypnol tablets confiscated by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration have declined by 80% since 1996.

Roche has worked with rape crisis centers and forensic nurses to develop extensive educational materials to help people become more aware and take action to protect themselves.