State Fines Pharmacy $88.7 Million for Illegal Sale of Prescription Drugs Online
The Board of Pharmacy yesterday levied an $88.7 million fine against a Los Angeles drug store, saying that it used the Internet to illegally sell prescription drugs directly to consumers without requiring a doctor's examination, the Los Angeles Times reports (White, Los Angeles Times, 5/29). The board fined the pharmacy, Total Remedy and Prescription Center II, $54.9 million; Barry Irvin, the pharmacist in charge and co-owner of the pharmacy was fined $33.1 million; and pharmacist William Packer was fined $697,500 (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29). The fines are thought to be the largest ever for illegal prescription drug sales over the Internet and are the first levied under a state law passed in 2000 that requires a "good-faith prior medical examination" by a California-licensed doctor before a prescription can be filled. The board imposed the maximum $25,000 fine for each of 3,500 prescriptions it claims were sold illegally. The fine must now be approved by the state medical board (Los Angeles Times, 5/29). Total Remedy fills many prescriptions for "lifestyle drugs," including Viagra for impotence, Propecia for hair loss and Xenical for weight loss (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29). According to Patricia Harris, the Pharmacy Board's executive officer, the prescriptions were written by doctors who did not have California medical licenses or access to patients' medical records (Brice, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/29).
Carlo Michelotti, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association, said the fines are a "miscarriage of justice" and "beyond what is reasonable" (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29). Irvin called the fines against him "crazy" and said that all the prescriptions filled by his pharmacy were legitimate (Los Angeles Times, 5/29). Packer said, "I knew nothing about it being illegal. ... The owner told me everything was fine." The men have 30 days to appeal the fines, and Packer said he planned to take such action (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29). Harris said that the board is investigating similar practices at other pharmacies (Sandoval, CNET News.com, 5/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.