Originally published on August 8, 2000 and brought to you today as a time capsule.
U.S. government authorities said Monday they have charged four people and a pharmaceutical supply company with conspiring to sell drugs over the Internet to people without valid prescriptions.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that the Norfolk Men’s Clinic made such drugs as Viagra, Xenical, Celebrex, Propecia and Claritin-D available to consumers without prescriptions in an attempt to collect fees for non-existent medical consultations.
The indictment alleges conspiracy, mail fraud, violations of the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Named in the charge are Anton F. Pusztai, Anita Yates and Dr. Roger Eiland of Clanton, Alabama; Yvan M. Degomme of Miami, Florida; and All International Co. of Miami. Yates was arrested Monday, the Justice Department said.
The Norfolk Web site says it is licensed to provide online and telephone consultations with the company’s own licensed doctors and that it is the only Internet provider licensed to do so.
The government said there were no such consultations, and that Yates and Pusztai used a computer to create fake prescriptions bearing the name of a foreign doctor.
Eiland then rewrote the fake prescriptions on Alabama prescription forms without any contact with the consumers who ordered the drugs, the Justice Department alleged. The prescriptions were filled by a licensed pharmacy in Alabama, the government said.
“Internet sites that claim to provide the services of a doctor when a prescription is issued on the basis of answers to questions on a form can be scams like the one that is charged here,” Assistant Attorney General David W. Ogden said. “People who need a prescription should consult a physician, not a Web site.”
The indictment charges Eiland with obstruction of justice for misrepresenting to the FDA the number of prescriptions he rewrote, the amount of money he received and his efforts to verify the existence of the foreign physician whose name was on the computer-generated prescriptions.
Yates and Pusztai are charged with money-laundering conspiracy, and the government is seeking forfeiture of the money involved. The Justice Department said the scheme began in October 1998 and continued until July 27th, the date a federal grand jury in Montgomery, Alabama, returned the indictment.
Degomme, the president of All-International, is charged with violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by engaging in the unlawful wholesale distribution of prescription drugs.
Around the World
The site had customers in the U.S. and other countries, including the UK, the Netherlands, France, Argentina and Spain, the government said.
The site carries a message, signed by Yates and Pusztai, saying: “News flash!!! Due to FDA intervention, http://www.viagra.au.com is temporarily being made unavailable. We expect the FDA review process to be completed shortly. Bookmark this site and return soon!”