PharmacyChecker Blog

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Resellers of Illegally Imported Medications Go to Jail

JailAs I’ve written many times, though technically illegal, patients are not prosecuted for importing medication for their own use. I like how the National Academy for State Health Policy phrases it:

“The FDA chooses to exercise enforcement discretion to not prosecute individuals who fill their prescriptions ex-U.S. so long as the drugs are for personal use and the amount does not exceed a personal-use threshold of 90 days.”

But that courtesy does not (and in many cases should not) extend to people who illegally import wholesale quantities or who import for re-sale of any kind. These people get busted. That’s precisely what happened to a New Hampshire couple, John Hayes and Plabpleung Hayes, who ended up pleading guilty to illegally importing wholesale quantities of medication and reselling it in the U.S.

This illegal drug importation threatens public health and should stand in stark contrast to filling a personal prescription from a pharmacy in Canada or other countries. Ordering medication internationally can be of great help to people who can’t afford medication here in the U.S. and should not be confused with illegal drug importation for re-sale. (more…)

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Sen. Nelson Wants Answers from FDA on Actions Against Affordable Rx Imports in Florida

Sen. Nelson.

Standing up for his constituents on drug prices

Last month, I blogged about the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ sending agents with search warrants to pharmacy storefronts in Florida that help older people buy more affordable medications from Canada and other countries. The FDA tried unsuccessfully to get one of the stores’ owners, Bill Hepscher, who runs Canadian MedStore, to sign a statement acknowledging that reimportation of prescription drugs is illegal. The Florida pharmacy storefront story was first reported in Kaiser Health News.

Yesterday, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb demanding to know why some prescription orders coming from Canada and other countries were seized, and inquiring why the FDA raided the storefront offices.

Clearly, Sen. Nelson understands the technical illegality of personal drug imports and the need to protect people from counterfeit drugs and Fentanyl. However, his letter underscores his confusion about why the FDA is stopping people from getting non-controlled, regular prescription drugs now. He wants to know specifically if there is a change in FDA’s overall enforcement policy.

I’ve been warning about the serious public health ramifications of overzealous FDA enforcement on access to affordable medication for a long time. In 2015, I wrote a report about online pharmacies and personal drug importation, and sent it to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Back in 2006, Senator Nelson played the leading role in ending stepped-up enforcement efforts by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (more…)

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Recent Arrests in CanadaDrugs Case

On June 14 and 15, 2017, several individuals were arrested in Manitoba and British Columbia, Canada (CBC News – Manitoba) pursuant to a U.S. extradition request relating to a 2015 U.S. federal indictment of the parties on charges of illegal wholesale importation of medication into the U.S. including one batch of Avastin alleged to be counterfeit. That indictment pertains to events occurring between 2009-2011. PharmacyChecker.com strongly condemns any manufacturing and trafficking in counterfeit drugs.

Some of the individuals arrested in Manitoba, all of whom have been released on bail and are scheduled to appear in court in Canada on July 12, are also owners and/or executives of CanadaDrugs.com, Ltd. which operated a wholesale business and an online retail website. The indictment focused on the wholesale business (an area which CanadaDrugs has long since exited) and not on its website that sells medication directly to individuals for their own use pursuant to a valid prescription, does not sell Avastin, and remains licensed by the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba and an approved member of the PharmacyChecker Verification Program. We are not aware of any incident involving the sale of counterfeit medicine from CanadaDrugs.com during its 12 years operating as an approved member of our PharmacyChecker Verification Program.

We continue to closely follow this case and will post information about it, as we have done in the past.

Update: It was falsely reported on the LegitScript.com blog on July 6, 2017 that individuals connected with this case “had been extradited to the United States” (as shown below). This is incorrect and no such extraditions have occurred.  False and/or misleading reporting by LegitScript has occurred in the past in what appear to be attempts to foster negative perceptions of the practice of personal drug importation and of our own work in helping to make it safe. LegitScript is a company founded by John Horton, whom we have asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate for possible government ethics violations.

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