Washington Post Series Examines Safety of Prescription Drug Supply
The Washington Post on Sunday began a five-day special report called "Pharmaceutical Roulette" that focuses on prescription drug safety issues in the United States and features findings from a year-long Post investigation into the topic. Summaries of articles published in the series on Sunday and Monday appear below.
- "U.S. Prescription Drug System Under Attack": The Post on Sunday reported on various tactics used to "sipho[n] off" the legal supply of drugs and "diver[t] them into a multimillion-dollar shadow market." According to the Post, "networks of middlemen, felons and other opportunists" create storefronts to sell "fraudulently obtain[ed]" drugs intended for health care facilities; counterfeiters are using increasingly advanced technology to replicate drugs; "pharmaceutical peddlers take advantage of lax regulations" to bring in drugs from Canada and Mexico; and "rogue medical merchants" sell narcotics via Internet pharmacies to people without valid prescriptions (Gaul/Flaherty, Washington Post, 10/19).
- "Father Leads Clan to Drug Sale Riches -- And Prison": The Post on Sunday profiled Robert Fenton, who opened a pharmaceutical wholesale business in Las Vegas and, along with his family, "ran or controlled a web of corporations and pharmacies" that illegally profited from drug sales. The stores bought discounted medications intended to be sold only to nursing homes and then sold the drugs on the open market, "bilk[ing] drug makers out of at least $16 million," the Post reports. Some family members were eventually sentenced to prison terms (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/19).
- "Higher Prices, More Compromises": When hospitals experience drug shortages, often they must purchase hard-to-find medications from small drug wholesalers that sell such drugs for "double or triple the usual price," the Post reports (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/19).
- "Salesman Fell Into a Shadow Market": The Post on Sunday profiled Sam Whatley, a drug salesperson who "was lured to run" a wholesale drug company that is now alleged to be "one of several shell companies in a multimillion-dollar fraud operation." Whatley, who has not been charged with any crime, has said he thought the business was legitimate (Flaherty/Gaul, Washington Post, 10/19).
- "Internet Trafficking in Narcotics Has Surged": "Little regulation" and "easy licenses" have contributed to the "overnight" appearance of illegal Internet pharmacies that serve as "a pipeline for narcotics and other deadly drugs," the Post reports in its lead series feature on Monday. The industry distributes "millions of pills into some of America's smallest and most economically distressed communities" and "frustrat[es] medical leaders alarmed by the threat to public health and investigators hard-pressed to keep up with nimble Web sites that can open and close at a moment's notice" (Gaul/Flaherty, Washington Post, 10/20).
- "Internet Cases": The Post on Monday profiled five different Internet pharmacies that have faced allegations of operating illegally (Gaul/Flaherty, Washington Post, 10/20).