Consumer Health Digest #07-50
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
December 25, 2007
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
Compounding pharmacy in serious trouble. The Texas Attorney General has charged Apothecure and its owner Gary Osborn with violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Texas also took action against Spectra Pharm Inc., an Apothecure-owned retail store that advertises and sells over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. [Attorney General Abbott takes legal action against drug manufacturer for substandard practices. Texas Attorney General news release, Dec 11, 2007] Licensed pharmacies in Texas can legally compound drugs by combining, mixing or altering ingredients to create a customized medication for an individual patient based on a physician’s prescription. However, Texas law requires that customized compounded drugs be approved by the FDA.The complaint charges that the defendants:
- Formulated and sold a highly potent injectable painkiller mixture linked to three deaths in Oregon and Washington. The victims received dosages with a potency of 4 milligrams per milliliter, rather than the 0.5 milligrams per milliliter stated on the government-approved dosage labels.
- Unlawfully manufacture drugs not approved by the FDA, and do so under the guise of “compounding” prescription drugs.
- Failed to use proper manufacturing practices, employed incorrect labels, and improperly claimed that its "dietary supplements" were effective against cancer, blood clots, blood pressure and diabetes.
In parallel actions, Oregon has charged Apothecure with illegally distributing drugs without a state-issued pharmacy or drug manufacturing license. The Oregon Board of Pharmacy has proposed to assess a $500,000 penalty. [Oregon and Texas AGs sue texas unlicensed compounding pharmacy; Oregon pharmacy board takes administrative action. Oregon Department of Justice news release, Dec 11, 2007] Apothecure is one of several compounding pharmacies that network with maverick practitioners who offer chelation therapy and other unsubstantiated treatments.
"Rogue" Internet pharmacies listed. PharmacyChecker.com. has listed 36 pharmacies that show no evidence of being licensed and may display unauthorized or altered verification seals from PharmacyChecker.com or other third-parties. These Web sites may put consumers' health and money at risk. PharmacyChecker.com has received the following types of complaints about these sites:
- Credit cards were charged (or overcharged) but no drugs were delivered.
- Delivery dates were continually postponed (e.g., item was “out of stock”, or “seized by Customs”).
- Incorrect or fake drugs were received.
- There was no order confirmation.
- No prescription were requested or required.
- Customer inquiries were ignored: phones were not answered or messages were not returned.
- Customer inquiries got evasive or uninformative responses such as “the manager isn’t here today."
In 2003, PharmacyChecker established a verification program to help consumers find qualified online pharmacies. The PharmacyChecker Seal indicates that a Web site markets prescription drugs dispensed from a pharmacy in good standing.
Internet pharmacy ring included former AIDS scammer. Three medical doctors were among 14 people charged with the illegal distribution of controlled substances through the Internet. [Fourteen charged in Internet pharmacy ring. USDOJ news release, Feb 8, 2007] The indictment described how several Web sites offered weight loss dugs and sleeping pills. After indicating the desired product(s), buyers were directed to another site to fill out a brief questionnaire and then another site to arrange for payment. After payment was received, the questionnaire was e-mailed to one of the doctors who would approve the purchase, which was filled by a pharmacy belonging to the ring. The doctors never communicated with or confirmed the identity of the buyers. Regulators learned about the ring after a mother and son committed suicide with pills obtained in this way. The prescription was written by Everett Echols II, M.D., who has a long history of regulatory difficulty. In 1992, his Tennessee medical license was suspended for several months for selling a phony AIDS treatment. He remained on probation and practiced in Tennessee for a few years and then relocated to North Carolina. In 1996, he was charged with 21 counts of prescribing controlled substances without being registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 1998, after he pled guilty in federal court to two counts, the North Carolina Medical Board suspended his license for 90 days. In 2004, after the board learned about his pharmacy ring involvement, it revoked his North Carolina license. During the investigation, Echols said that he had authorized 244,000 prescriptions over an 8-month period, for which he was paid $3 per prescription. [Barrett S. "AIDS cure" scammers in repeated trouble. Quackwatch, Dec 24, 2007]
Top-level Mannatech distributor convicted of tax evasion. Raymond G. Gebauer, of Lake Sammamish, Washington, has been convicted of failing to pay income tax for the years 1998 through 2001. [Lake Sammamish resident convicted on four counts of tax evasion: Multi-level marketing guru failed to file income tax returns on millions of dollars of income. USDOJ news release, Aug 18, 2007] At trial, prosecutors proved that he had filed no federal tax returns during that period despite gross income of over $3.5 million. Gebauer's Web site stated that he had made more than $20,000 per month selling Mannatech products. He is also author of the book How to Cure and Prevent any Disease. His sentencing has been scheduled for February 2008. He reportedly was one of Mannatech's top sellers, with a downline network of 714,000 associates and customers. [Sataline S. Top Mannatech supplement seller is found guilty of tax evasion. Wall Street Journal, Aug 14, 2007]
This page was revised on December 26, 2007.