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Date Posted: 23:29:58 09/20/03 Sat
Author: Mr Cheap
Subject: Government closes Dubuque pharmacy over Internet orders
In reply to: Observer 's message, "In the media" on 12:46:08 08/04/03 Mon

Government closes Dubuque pharmacy over Internet orders

Dubuque, Ia. - Federal and state agents shut down a neighborhood pharmacy here Friday amid accusations that it filled thousands of illegal Internet orders for powerful prescription medications.

State regulators suspended the license of Union Family Pharmacy because of allegations that pharmacists worked with a Virgin Islands Internet company to sell narcotic painkillers, weight-loss stimulants and other drugs.

The orders did not include proper prescriptions, officials said.

Union Family Pharmacy is the first Iowa drugstore accused in what regulators see as an increasing problem. The Internet is crowded with Web sites that offer to deliver an array of addictive medicines after customers fill out simple questionnaires.

A half-dozen investigators combed through the Dubuque business Friday as anxious customers watched.

Onlookers said the store has a loyal following, especially among elderly people who struggle to afford medicine.

"The prices are right, and the quality is very good," said Verne Boyes, 84.

Pharmacy intern Corey Parr, 22, said investigators arrived earlier in the week and said they would be at the store for a day.

"One day turned into three days, and now they've shut us down," said Parr, a University of Dubuque student. He said he thought Internet links to pharmacies were common. "I didn't know this was such a big deal in Iowa. But apparently it's caused such an uproar."

A lawyer for pharmacy owner Jack Huzl declined to talk about the allegations. No criminal charges were reported.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners didn't take action against the licenses of Huzl, 65, or the store's other pharmacists, Charles Wiebke, 57, and Doug Bouchey, 49.

Terry Witkowski, an administrative assistant to the board, said its members will discuss next month whether to sanction the pharmacists and up to eight technicians. She said Wiebke has been disciplined three times over the past 12 years, including a month's suspension in 1991, for violations that included dispensing medicine without proper prescriptions. She said Huzl has been on probation twice for dispensing errors and paperwork issues. Bouchey has no record of discipline, she said.

In its closure order, the board said Union Family Pharmacy started working Aug. 19 with a Virgin Islands firm that runs the Internet site "buymeds.com." Since then, authorities say, the Dubuque business had filled 4,750 orders from 47 states. Union Family Pharmacy did not have the required licenses to sell in most of those states, regulators said.

The Web site, which is graced with a photograph of a happy couple frolicking in the surf, promises service that is "private, secure and convenient." Regulators say it also is illegal.

The closure notice says four Florida doctors approved most of the prescriptions electronically, but without proper contact with the patients.

Witkowski said board inspectors discovered the Internet operation this week while they investigated reports that drugs were missing from the pharmacy. She said much of the medicine at the store was seized for safekeeping while the business' license is suspended.

Local and federal law officers were involved in the investigation, but they wouldn't say if they expect to file charges.

Witkowski said some Internet pharmacies are legal. She encouraged customers to look for a "Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site" seal, which indicates it is certified to do business in the United States. She said customers should beware of any site that offers to sell drugs without in-depth consultation between the patient and an Iowa-licensed physician.


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  • Steep rise in abuse of legal drugs -- Dummy, 21:59:59 09/30/03 Tue
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