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Crime Government Medicine The Internet United States

Online Pharmacy Pioneer Arrested In Florida 208

FeatherBoa writes "A Manitoba man who was one of the first entrepreneurs in the cross-border online pharmacy industry has been arrested in Florida and is facing charges related to the sale of foreign and counterfeit medicines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claimed many of the drugs promoted as Canadian actually came from other countries. An FDA spokesperson commented, 'Many of these websites are operating outside of the United States. However, the internet's broad reach allows these websites to reach U.S. consumers.'"
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Online Pharmacy Pioneer Arrested In Florida

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  • by kelemvor4 ( 1980226 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:18AM (#40334663)
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is bored and screws with a guy who helps people buy the health products they want to buy. News at 11.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:25AM (#40334737) Homepage

    "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is vigilant and stops a guy who helps people buy what appear to a layperson to be the health products they want to buy but are in fact frauds that will kill them or do nothing while getting them to avoid proper treatment."

    I'm not sure which is right, because I don't have the facts of the case, but it's quite possible that what the FDA is doing is a good thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:26AM (#40334751)

    Federalist #51 (Madison):

    "But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human
    nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were
    to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be
    necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over
    men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government
    to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:30AM (#40334773) Homepage

    Well at the very least you have to assume that someone trying to sell you a drug with limited ad space is far less likely to disclose all the potential side effects and dangers then your local pharmacist/doctor (who are legally bound to not lie to you).

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:34AM (#40334809)

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is bored and screws with a guy who helps people buy the health products they want to buy. News at 11.

    While what he is doing may be shady, I will say that Canadian drug stores enabled my mom to take a much more expensive brand-name drug that she wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. This drug was not covered on her insurance, and the ones that were covered were not effective for her condition.

    She refused to let her children buy it for her, but when I found it online for 20% of the price (after pill splitting), she was able to afford it.

    The problem I wish the FDA would address is exorbitant drug prices in the USA compared to what the rest of the world pays.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:42AM (#40334863) Journal

    There are a lot of uninsured and underinsured people out there. If you're living paycheck to paycheck, and you'll be out $150 of grocery money if you take an office visit (not to mention the time off of work you won't be getting paid for), then self-diagnosis on the Web and foreign pharmacies start looking like attractive options.

    This is what people are forced to do in a for profit health care industry.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:42AM (#40334867)

    Probably true, but this is more a problem with HealthCanada than the FDA.

    If I buy my drugs from a Canadian Pharmacy, I know (or should know) that I will be subject to Canadian regulations and quality control standards. The FDA's involvement in this should be no more than to inform me of this fact.

    What broke down is HealthCanadas oversight of this guy's operation. The article seems to suggest that Strempler "every intention of conducting an ethical and professional business". Of course, that was one of his online pharmacy buddies opinions.

    The FDA cannot assure the safety and efficacy of products that are purchased outside of legitimate channels.

    HealthCanada isn't legitimate? Well, maybe not. So the solution should be: deport Strempler and see how the Canadians deal with him.

    I'm all for the FDA keeping the American public informed as to what meets standards and what does not. But this situation isn't much different than me visiting Tijuana and eating at a local taco stand. The health codes aren't up to US standards, but I know that.

  • by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:44AM (#40334901)
    US business is always preaching e benefits of free market capitalism, yet the drug industry is regulated and restricted in a manner that artificially inflates prices and restricts competition. If this person was selling counterfeit medicine, by all means throw the book at him for endangering lives. But if all he is doing is supplying a gray market product, he is actually serving a valid economic purpose by helping to push down the prie of essential medical supplies for an aging American population.
  • by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @10:47AM (#40334921)

    That's because his crime was selling drugs to a US citizen below their listed retail price.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:08AM (#40335147)

    But this situation isn't much different than me visiting Tijuana and eating at a local taco stand. The health codes aren't up to US standards, but I know that.

    Not really. Unless you're a dispensing pharmacist or medial professional, you're unlikely to be able to tell if the little yellow pill you ordered online is in fact your gout medication, a generic antihistamine, or worming meds for cats, and you won't know until your gout gets worse.

  • by Bigby ( 659157 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:15AM (#40335241)

    Very few US businesses preach free market capitalism. They preach managed market capitalism. They achieve that goal through the practice of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism increases in effectiveness with the size of government (and its power). And free market capitalism gets the bad rap as government power and size increases. Go figure.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:16AM (#40335255) Journal

    These types of online places aren't in it for the altruism - they are in it for profit, and preying on the weak.

    And why do you think the pharmaceutical industry is in it?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @11:19AM (#40335313) Journal
    Team Intellectual Property has done their level best to lump all classes of 'products that they don't like' into a homogenous category of wickedness.

    One would think that a meaningful distinction could be drawn between the following categories:

    1. Fakes: Capsules full of god-knows-what fraudulently labelled as being something else and sold as such.
    2. Counterfeits: Generic drugs (or non-OEM compatible FRUs, in situations like ink cartridges) fraudulently sold as being the name-brand good.
    3. Unauthorized resale: Authentic goods being sold in some manner that makes the manufacturer a sad, sad, panda.
    4. Authorized distribution: Authentic goods being sold as the manufacturer wanted.

    Unfortunately for everyone, except for the blatantly self-interested parties, there has been a concerted effort to muddle the genuinely pernicious and dangerous class 1, and the possibly safe but definitely fraudulent, as in class 2, with the merely-cuts-into-profits-from-price-discrimination-between-countries of class 3.

    Thus, while ICE will attempt to hunt you down if you are shipping in boxes of sugar pills labelled as some drug, or generic printer cartridges stamped "HP", they will also bust you for importing authentic Rolexes, legally purchased outside the US, if the trademark holder doesn't want you selling them in the US, despite them being 100% genuine product, with no theft or fraud in the distribution chain...
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:23PM (#40336115)

    My assumption is that the FDA is acting like my daddy, and I'm just a little kid, too stupid to make my own choices and decisions. Maybe I WANT to buy medicine from Canada. Maybe I am VERY aware of the risk, but willing to do it anyway. Maybe I believe if a problem existed, then CANADA would handle it, under their false-advertising laws.

    In any case, just as abortion if MY choice, buying pills online should be MY choice, and not have to worry about the FDA sending me to my room like a bad little kid. I am sick-and-tired of this BS where the government thinks citizens are children who have to be cared for.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:40PM (#40336341) Journal
    You're just a full of shit conspiracy theorist unless you can prove your case.

    He has conflated two different situations that apply here, but not even remotely "full of shit"

    As the first situation applicable here, US (and other well-regulated "First World") pharmaceutical companies sell their drugs much, much cheaper to literally every other country in the world than they do in the US. Why? Because we have the single least dollar-for-dollar-effective healthcare system in the world, simple as that. You can buy cheaper drugs outside the US simply because they cost less outside the US.

    Second, you have relabeled/expired/non-drug drugs sold fraudulently by unethical parties in some places outside the US. This doesn't differ in the least from buying your home theater kit off the back of some guy's box tuck on the side of the road; You may get it cheap, but you have no idea what you've really gotten.

    The problem here comes from the FDA lumping all reimportation under the same banner. The first kind has absolutely no justification beyond protecting industry profits within the US. The second kind depends on the rigor of the applicable laws in the country from which you buy.

    Some - I dare say most - of us believe that if you buy from a country with substantially similar drug safety laws to the US, the FDA should stay the hell out of the situation. If, however, you find a great deal from a Nicaraguan online pharmacy... Well... Personally I still say the FDA should butt out, but definitely more of a caveat emptor situation than nice safe we--regulated Canadian pharmacies.

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. -- John Kenneth Galbraith