Almost three years ago, we blogged about a federal investigation of CanadaDrugs.com, which for many years has safely sold prescription medication at prices far lower than typically available in the U.S, and which is a verified online pharmacy in the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program. The investigation focused on CanadaDrugs.com’s wholesale drug importation and distribution to doctors and clinics — an area CanadaDrugs.com has long since exited. It did not focus on CanadaDrugs.com’s retail sales to consumers for personal use, which is the focus of the PharmacyChecker.com Verification Program and the information we provide to consumers on our website about online pharmacies.
Recently, an indictment was unsealed in federal district court in Montana that charged CanadaDrugs.com, Ltd. (the entity which owns CanadaDrugs.com) and others with illegal wholesale drug importation, which allegedly occurred between three to six years ago. The allegations include wholesale distribution of a counterfeit version of the cancer drug Avastin to medical clinics in the U.S.
The indictment of CanadaDrugs, Ltd, comes as no surprise, as the investigation was well publicized. It will also come as no surprise, however, when the U.S. pharmaceutical industry tries to use the charges, which focus exclusively on wholesale drug importation, in an effort to discredit safe personal drug importation. As we have written here and opined in the New York Times, the U.S. pharmaceutical industry and pharmacy chains feel threatened because Americans can and do safely purchase their medications online at substantially lower cost from pharmacies in other countries. Thus, the industry, the “non-profit” groups it funds, and the government agencies which it lobbies and seeks to influence, will see this indictment as yet one more opportunity to scare people from personal drug importation. This slight of hand is wrong, since the investigation and indictment have nothing to do with personal drug importation. In fact, even the Wall Street Journal, which was instrumental in publicizing the investigation, clarified the difference between wholesale businesses and CanadaDrugs.com: “There is no indication that fake medicines were sold through the company’s consumer-focused website, CanadaDrugs.com.”
Although not directly implicated in the allegations about CanadaDrugs’ wholesale distribution of Avastin, Dr. Ram Kamath is peripherally named in the indictment as well. Dr. Kamath is a graduate of the Chicago College of Pharmacy and possesses 30 years of experience in hospital, retail, managed care pharmacy, and regulatory affairs. He is an expert in the area of international pharmacy. He designed personal drug importation programs that were subsequently adopted by a number of states, including Kansas under its then-Governor, Kathleen Sebelius, who later joined Persident Obama’s cabinet as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
As we understand the sole allegation against Dr. Kamath, he has been charged on one occasion with receiving and holding several packages of the cancer drug Avastin, which were allegedly sent to him by an unindicted third party company. The products were thereafter picked up by that same party.
Dr. Kamath is an independent contractor who has over the years worked as a consultant to Pharmacy Checker.com. However, the conduct in question had no connection to PharmacyChecker’s business; nor was it a part of his work for the company. We are of course dismayed by the charges, but we are confident that in the end Dr. Kamath will be exonerated. [UPDATE: Charges against Dr. Ram Kamath were dismissed on October 20].
So, you may be asking the same question we have been asking ourselves: if Dr. Kamath was not involved in the sale of Avastin by CanadaDrugs, nor in any other aspect of CanadaDrugs’ pharmaceutical sales, why was he included in this sweeping indictment? Does this reflect an attempt by someone in the FDA to punish Dr. Kamath for his prominent role in the development of safe personal drug importation? Is this simply the product of an overzealous FDA doing the bidding of the pharmaceutical industry, which is fighting tooth and nail to prevent Americans from buying safe foreign medications and prescription drugs at lower cost because it affects their bottom line? Are we surprised that one of the attorneys working for the government on this case previously worked for a Washington law firm well-known for its representation of major pharmaceutical companies? Or has Washington’s revolving door now embedded itself into the decision making halls of justice?
While we have no greater insight into the present allegations, we can say this: years of verifications by PharmacyChecker, and peer reviewed, empirical studies confirming the strength of our program, coupled with extensive use by Americans, have demonstrated that CanadaDrugs.com is a safe international online pharmacy for personal drug importation. The licenses of its associated retail pharmacies remain valid. It and other safe online pharmacies have enabled millions of Americans to benefit from significantly lower cost medications from other countries, helping many Americans get prescribed medication they may otherwise have gone without.
We strongly condemn any distribution of counterfeit medicine, foreign or domestic, but the allegations in the indictment should not be viewed or portrayed as a stain on personal drug importation or on those who help ensure its safety.Tagged with: avastin, canadadrugs, kamath, montana