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Feds target firm importing Canadian drugs

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Citing "significant risks to public health," Justice Department lawyers asked a federal judge Thursday to stop Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Rx Depot from importing prescription drugs from Canada and selling them in the U.S. at reduced prices.

The Justice Department, acting on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, alleged that Rx Depot, its sister company Rx Canada and the firm's top officials, including company president Carl Moore, violated several laws and risked public health of consumers.

"Drugs that are imported from foreign countries do not have the same assurance of safety and efficacy as drugs that are regulated by the FDA," the department said in an 11-page complaint.

"Their quality is unpredictable. For instance, they may be contaminated, counterfeit, or contain erratic amounts of the active ingredient."

The Justice Department had no immediate information on how quickly a U.S. District Court judge in Tulsa would hear their request.

The FDA warned Rx Depot in March that it was illegally importing drugs from Canada and called on it to stop or face possible shutdown.

The request for the injunction calls on the company to grant restitution, but does not cite an amount the government is seeking to collect.

"We're not asking for any money at this point," said a Justice official. "We're asking to shut them down."

Rx Depot partner David Peoples appeared unswayed when he learned about the filing from a reporter.

"I think it's not aimed at Rx Depot. It's aimed at every person in the United States that needs to save money on their prescription medicine," he said. "We're not breaking any laws."

Lobbyists working for U.S. pharmacies are behind the move to shut him down, and the questions about safety are not relevant, he said.

"There's no question in the validity, safety and convenience of this business model and what we do," he said.

He cited a recent study he said concluded that "the system in Canada virtually mirrored our own FDA system."

In addition to its headquarters in Tulsa, Rx Depot has stores in Oklahoma City; Lowell, Arkansas; La Mesa and Woodland Hills, California; Boulder, Colorado; Mountain Grove, Missouri; Lincoln, Nebraska; Carrollton and Paris, Texas; Port Charlotte and Fort Myers, Florida; and Billings, Montana.

Rx Canada, owned by the son of the president of Rx Depot, has stores in Oklahoma.

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