Four Valley mail-order drug companies have been accused by the state pharmacy board of selling prescription drugs without a license.
Medicine International in Mesa, Canadian Rx Solutions in Scottsdale, Prescription Drugs Canada LLP in Sun City, and Value Prescription Inc. in Phoenix each were sent a letter by the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy this week accusing them of not being licensed by the board and not employing a licensed pharmacist. The letter threatened to report them to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution.
The letters were sent to mailorder companies that advertised lowprice drugs in local newspapers, said Hal Ward, the board’s deputy director.
"When you buy drugs from Mexico or India or Canada, you don’t know what you’re getting," Ward said. "Our function is to protect public health and safety. Period."
Carrol Dlugosch, the owner of Medicine International, argued that his business is not a pharmacy and is therefore not under the board’s jurisdiction. He also claims that a govern- ment crackdown on priceslashing companies such as his is a conspiracy to benefit U.S. pharmacies at the expense of low-income seniors.
"I’ve never seen in 50 years any medicine with any problems," he said. "But I’ve seen a lot of overpriced medicine. So that’s a lot of hoopla from the drug companies."
December was the first time the board undertook the issue of mail-order medicines, Ward said. That was when the agency contacted Dlugosch, who was running his company in Cottonwood, Ward said.
Dlugosch, who helps seniors buy prescription drugs from India, said he would close his business, Ward said. Instead Dlugosch relocated it to 1840 E. University Drive in Mesa.
Dlugosch, 66, a retired insurance agent, said he has filled 5,000 orders in the past three years and is providing an irreplaceable service to the area’s senior citizens.
Customers of Medicine International pay a $35 membership fee. Then Dlugosch faxes their doctor-written prescriptions to India, where Indian drug manufacturers approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ship the medicines to the homes of the customer — for a fraction of the price of the local drugstore, Dlugosch said.
For example, Dlugosch sells the cholesterol-reducing drug Lipitor for $2.06 per pill — nearly half the U.S. retail price.
Ward said that while the FDA may approve the factories where these drugs are manufactured, it does not approve the packages in which they arrive in the United States because patient information may not be provided.
Joel Korsunsky, a consultant with Prescription Drugs Canada, said he was surprised his company was sent a letter since it has been in business one year and was inspected by the board in April. The company made adjustments to meet the state’s requirements and has had no interaction with the agency since, Korsunsky said.
The Canadian-owned company has offices in Scottsdale and Sun City and does not staff a pharmacist, nor does it have an Arizona pharmacy license. Representatives of Canadian Rx Solutions and Value Prescription Inc. could not be reached for comment Wednesday.