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Broker of Canadian Drugs Ordered to Close

September 10, 2003|From Associated Press

The Justice Department ordered Rx Depot to close up shop, as the Bush administration for the first time moved to shut down one of the numerous chains of Internet stores that promise to sell senior citizens cheaper drugs from Canada.

In a letter Tuesday to Rx Depot President Carl Moore, the Justice Department said it would sue Moore unless he agreed by Thursday to shut down the company's 85 storefronts. The department said the stores violated federal law by helping U.S. consumers import drugs from Canada; only manufacturers are allowed to bring medicines into the country.

Moore said in an interview that he had no intention of signing the agreement.

"Just because this is the federal government, this does not scare me," he said. "I look forward to my day in court."

Charles Miller, spokesman for the Justice Department's civil division, called the letter "an attempt to have them stop their illegal activity and settle this matter."

"We have not heard directly from Rx Depot, and if they are interested in a settlement, then we will pursue a settlement," Miller said. "If they are not interested, we will pursue litigation."

Moore has raised the ire of the pharmaceutical industry and regulators by helping seniors get prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies, which are often priced 50% below U.S. drugstore prices because of Canadian government regulations.

The Food and Drug Administration warned Rx Depot in March that it was illegally importing drugs and told it to quit or risk being shut down.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Rx Depot not only refused, it actually expanded operations into more states, FDA associate commissioner William Hubbard said.

The FDA said it asked the Justice Department to seek an injunction against Rx Depot "to stop them from importing drugs that pose a serious threat to the public health."

Hubbard said the FDA also was preparing warning letters for seven Web sites that purport to sell cheaper Canadian drugs to Americans.

In the Rx Depot case, FDA agents posed as customers and ordered Serzone, a powerful antidepressant, from Rx Depot. The company promised that it would ship a U.S.-made, FDA-approved bottle of the drug. Instead, Rx Depot shipped to the FDA what appeared to be a counterfeit copy of Serzone, made in some country other than the United States or Canada, Hubbard said.

Rx Depot operates storefront businesses in half a dozen states including Florida, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Pharmacy regulators from four states have tried to close Moore's stores in their states. Only Montana has succeeded.

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