As reported by Kaiser Health News, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) raided nine Florida storefronts that help customers to purchase prescription drugs from unlicensed online sources. These stores are frequented by senior citizens who do not feel comfortable purchasing their own prescription drugs online and are unaware of the risks posed by the many foreign online pharmacies.
Although none of the stores were closed, FDA-OCI warned store owners that importing drugs from foreign countries is illegal and that helping to “administer” such medicines puts them in danger of being fined or receiving a jail sentence. Search warrants allowed agents access to computers, paperwork about any foreign drug sales, and any drugs themselves. Agents did not remove any computers but appeared to make copies of files, along with customer files and any financial or banking records for the stores.
While not commenting specifically on this investigation, FDA spokeswoman Lyndsay Meyer stated that “The FDA is concerned about the safety risks associated with the importation of unapproved prescription drugs from foreign countries.” A 2015 ABC News 20/20 investigation into these storefronts revealed filled prescriptions that contained impurities, unknown ingredients, were illegally diverted drugs that the manufacturer could not promise were safe, and drugs that came with instructions only in a foreign language. Several of the prescriptions had their quantities changed or generics substituted for the prescribed brand-name drugs by the people working at the stores.
When confronted, employees and owners of these storefronts feigned ignorance, denied knowing that what they were doing was illegal, and in the case of one owner of a store in Florida, outright lied to the show’s producers. That owner said that “Americans are allowed under federal law to order up to a 90 day supply of non-controlled medication,” which is not true. According to the FDA, in most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs for personal use.