By Megan Breckenridge, Staff Writer
SULLO & SULLO, LLP
HOUSTON—Pharmacies in Illinois and Utah stand accused of illicit prescription drug sales over the Internet, according to court papers filed by federal agents in two U.S. cities.
Search warrant affidavits allege that both pharmacies, one in Des Plaines, Illinois, and the other in American Fork, Utah, are owned by the same man, Kyle Rootsaert. The company in Des Plaines, now called Rand Pharmacy, combined with another unidentified online pharmacy shipped 30,000 packages of prescription drugs across the country during the first six months of 2010.
"This is a pretty large ring of at least 200 websites that acted as internet pharmacies that were basically selling drugs—prescription drugs—without requiring a valid prescription," John Horton, a former official in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in an interview with CNN. "These affidavits indicate this was a multiyear, multimillion-dollar operation involving thousands and thousands of prescriptions. Going back in time, there were even deaths involved with this organization."
According to the court documents, the majority of the drugs were highly addictive, especially the muscle relaxants Soma and Tramadol. And the same physician, Dr. William E. Morrow of Layton, Utah, authorized most of the prescriptions without ever having seen or talked to any of the people ordering the drugs.
In 1999, Utah records show Morrow lost his right to dispense controlled drugs for three years because he did not follow proper prescription procedures. He was also fined $1,000, but regained his right to prescribe controlled medications in 2002. His right to practice medicine was never taken away.
Federal agents bought drugs from the online pharmacies between 2008 and April 2010 without a prescription, the affidavits say. The pills were delivered within a day or two, and dozens of follow-up emails were sent encouraging the agents to purchase more drugs. Also in 2008, a correspondent for CNN’s Special Investigation’s Unit was able to obtain the antidepressant Prozac without a prescription from the accused pharmacies.
There are countless reasons to be cautious when ordering medications online, including the sale of altered drug formulations, and expired or counterfeit products. To be sure that you are getting your medication from a reputable source, it is best to visit a licensed brick and mortar pharmacy or use an online pharmacy that has been certified by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program at legitscript.com.