PharmacyChecker 'contractor' arraigned in illicit drug probe

Online pharmacyA senior figure at online pharmacy certification firm has been charged with selling mislabelled and counterfeit medicines.

A US Department of Justice (DoJ) indictment handed down by a grand jury last year and unsealed earlier this month, says that a man claimed to be the company's director of pharmacy policy and international verifications - Ram Kamath - is among 14 people and companies accused with the sales of $78m-worth of illegal drugs.

The arraignment also cites the online pharmacy and other individuals based outside the US. Kamath will be formally charged in a US federal court on August 25, although the other individuals have not yet been extradited to face the charges.

According to the indictment, Canada Drugs and its affiliates illegally purchased the mis-labelled and counterfeit drugs abroad and then routed them through Egypt and Barbados for sale to doctors in the US. 

Prosecutors claim that when the US FDA began investigating Canada Drugs' involvement in distributing counterfeit versions of Roche's cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) in 2012, Kamath agreed to illegally store some of the counterfeits in his garage while Canada Drugs was shipping its inventory back to the UK.

According to Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), 97 per cent of all online pharmacies do not comply with US laws and 50 percent of medicines sold online are counterfeit.

PharmacyChecker has been under fire for some time, clashing with another online pharmacy organisation - LegitScript - in 2010 after the latter took over its contract with Google to monitor the Internet search giant's pharmacy ads.

The two companies' war of words escalated after LegitScript published research indicating that PharmacyChecker had certified Internet pharmacies that were selling prescription drugs without a prescription, including not only Canada Drugs but also other operators who have since been indicted and/or convicted. They include:

  •, whose principal was convicted and incarcerated for counterfeit drug sales in 2013;
  •, now shut down because its owner is currently under indictment for selling controlled substance prescription drugs without a valid prescription; and
  •, which is operated by individuals charged with violating the Controlled Substances Act, engaging in money laundering, and violating other drug safety law.

"The US DoJ's indictment pulls back the curtain on the Canadian Internet pharmacy industry, and exposes these businesses' sale of fake drugs - drugs that are not from Canada, are not FDA-approved and, in many cases, are counterfeit - and their attempts to cover it up," commented John Horton, president of LegitScript.

For its part, PharmacyChecker claimed in 2011 that Google was at fault for allowing rogue online pharmacies onto its advertising platform that had never applied through its certification programme.

A blog post published by the certification firm last week claims that the investigation into Canada Drugs "focused on Canada Drugs' wholesale drug importation and distribution to doctors and clinics - an area Canada Drugs has long since exited."

"It did not focus on Canada Drugs' retail sales to consumers for personal use, which is the focus of the PharmacyChecker verification programme and the information we provide to consumers on our website about online pharmacies," it added.

It has also distanced itself from Kamath, describing him as "an independent contractor who has over the years worked as a consultant to PharmacyChecker," and claiming that "the conduct in question had no connection to PharmacyChecker's business; nor was it a part of his work for the company."

It also suggests the US pharmaceutical industry tries to use the charges, which focus exclusively on wholesale drug importation, in an effort to discredit "safe personal drug importation," and says it is "confident that in the end Dr Kamath will be exonerated."

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