Magazine article Drug Topics

Calif. Board Imposes $88 Million Fine over On-Line Rxs

Magazine article Drug Topics

Calif. Board Imposes $88 Million Fine over On-Line Rxs

Article excerpt


The California Board of Pharmacy has levied what may the largest dispensing fine ever. The board demanded $88.7 million in fines from a Los Angeles pharmacy and two pharmacists in late May for filling Internet-based prescriptions.

The board claims that California consumers could order and receive prescription drugs by completing an on-line questionnaire and providing a credit card number. No medical exam was required before the Rxs were filled, according to board investigators. The board wants a fine of $25,000 for each of more than 3,500 illegal Rxs.

Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, said the California fines are the start of a nationwide crackdown on Internet Rx sales. "That's the biggest fine I've ever heard of," he said. "There is a hard core of pharmacies moving hundreds of thousands of doses via the Internet every month. We hope this kind of action will encourage consumers to become more wary."

While state pharmacy boards go after pharmacies filling on-line Rxs, Catizone said the Federal Trade Commission is working to close down Web sites that generate sales without requiring a legitimate prescription.

The California board cited Total Remedy and Prescription Center II, pharmacist-in-charge (and half-- owner) Barry Irwin, and employee pharmacist William Packer. The pharmacy was fined $54.9 million. Irwin was fined $33.1 million, and Packer was fined $697,500.

The site that provided the Rxs, south Florida-based CyberHealthServices. com, was still in operation at deadline. A telephone service representative told Drug Topics that scripts were being filled by several pharmacies around the country, depending on the shipping address.

The Web site offers lifestyle drugs such as Viagra (sildenafil, Pfizer), Propecia (finasteride, Merck), and Xenical (orlistat, Roche). Other products include Claritin (loratadine, Schering), Celebrex (Celecoxib, Searle), Zyban (bupropion, GlaxoSmithKline), Saizen (somatropin, Serono), and Allegra (fexofenadine, Aventis).

The proposed fine raised a protest from the California Pharmacists Association. "We support the citation and fine," said CPhA CEO Carlo Michelotti. "But the amount here is breathtaking. The level of penalty is disproportionate to the egregiousness of the crime. I doubt that there was $25,000 in profits from all the questionable prescriptions the board found."

According to attorney Herbert Weinberg, who represents Irwin, gross profits from scripts generated by CyberHealthServices. …

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