Local firm watching
Canada drug case

Like an Oklahoma firm that
shut down last week, a Hawaii
service helps consumers
get cheaper drugs

A judge's order last week shutting down an Oklahoma-based pharmacy chain that imported prescription drugs from Canada could impact other such programs nationwide, including those operating in Hawaii.

Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan granted a request by the Food and Drug Administration to shut down Tulsa-based Rx Depot and Rx of Canada for violating a federal law that allows only manufacturers to bring drugs into the country. The combined company has 85 storefronts.

In Hawaii, Canada Discount HealthCare Services of Hawaii was set up by retired businessman Chuck Malm in July 2002. The program was operated in conjunction with the nonprofit Medicinal Economics and Distributive Services he set up to help patients gain access to special patient assistance programs offered by U.S. drug companies. Those programs, aimed at getting medications to people at or near the poverty level, could not reach everyone unable to afford their drugs, so Malm set up a mail-order drug program using Canadian pharmacies.

Another discount drug company, Canada Discount RX of Winnipeg, which is affiliated with McKnight's Pharmacies in Manitoba, has run newspaper advertisements in Hawaii. Company officials could not be reached for comment regarding the court ruling.

But in July, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs began investigating Malm's Canada Discount HealthCare and issued a subpoena for the company's patient records. Malm refused to give up the records.

Malm's attorney, Russell Scarlett, said DCCA did not receive complaints about Malm or the service. The department is looking at whether the company needs to be licensed as a pharmacy in order to operate.

Scarlett said Malm was continuing to operate the service, but would not say how many clients are ordering drugs from Canada. That information is part of the state's investigation, he said.

But neither Canada Discount RX or Canada Discount HealthCare Services operates as a pharmacy in that they do not handle the drugs being ordered. Instead they help consumers buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies.

"There is no complaint against Chuck. No one made a complaint and the state has not filed a complaint, so its just an on-going investigation. This has been strictly a licensing investigation, that's what we've been told so we are waiting for whatever happens," he said.

But Scarlett said he and Malm are tracking the Oklahoma case.

"We are following that with interest. Carl Moore (founder of Rx Depot and Rx of Canada) has filed an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver so we'll be interested in what the Appeals Court says. But for the moment, there has been no impact on Chuck."


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