Company that helps customers buy cheaper drugs ordered to stop


Wednesday, June 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A company that helps senior citizens buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies plans to appeal a judge's order to halt operations in 90 days.

Oklahoma County District Judge Bryan C. Dixon granted the Oklahoma Pharmacy Board's request for a temporary restraining order against Rx Depot, which has two stores in Oklahoma City and one each in Tulsa, Grove and Bartlesville.

The order won't take effect for three months, during which time an appeal is expected.

"The ball's in their court," said Assistant Attorney General Grant Moak, who represented the Pharmacy Board.

Only Oklahoma and Arkansas have questioned the business practices of Rx Depot, company President Carl Moore said. Other states, including Texas, California, Florida and New Mexico have been receptive, he said.

"We hope to prevail on appeal," Moore said

Government price controls and the weak Canadian dollar are why many drugs are cheaper in Canada.

Rx Depot sends customers' prescriptions to pharmacies there by fax. Canadian doctors and pharmacies review the Oklahoma prescriptions, check patient medical histories, fill the prescriptions and mail the drugs back to Oklahoma in two or three weeks, Moore said.

The state Pharmacy Board has a watchdog role to protect Oklahomans from unlicensed pharmacies that could import counterfeit or tainted drugs, Moak argued.

Moore said Rx Depot actually isn't a pharmacy, but Moak said it is.

Tulsa heart-transplant patient Jerry Cox testified that he's saved $8,602 during one year with Rx Depot's assistance in obtaining 17 prescription medications.

Cox said he doesn't qualify for patient assistance programs and free or reduced-price medications offered by major American drug companies.

He said he may be breaking the law, but says it's no worse than getting a speeding ticket.

"Rx Depot provides a convenient service to me ... somebody I can talk to eyeball to eyeball," Cox said.

After the hearing, Dixon ruled that Rx Depot is an agent for Canadian pharmacies that aren't licensed in Oklahoma.

Rx Depot has broken the Oklahoma Pharmacy Act by soliciting, offering for sale and accepting credit card information to buy prescription drugs for Oklahomans, Dixon said.

Moak said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration forbids the importation of most prescription medications from outside the United States.

Canadian authorities recently confirmed they can't guarantee the safety of drugs coming into the United States, Moak said.

"We can't make an exception for any unlicensed foreign pharmacies to do business in Oklahoma," Moak said, referring to Canada.

Floyd Stoops, an attorney for Rx Depot, said Oklahoma's government has a ridiculous double standard.

"Any American can cross the Canadian border, buy safe prescription drugs and return to the United States without fear of prosecution," he said.

"Why can't Oklahomans have the same rights as people who live in the border states?"