CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On the eve of a U.S. Senate hearing on prescription drug abuse, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and two other members of Congress asked three licensed pharmacies if they are buying drugs needed to treat cancer and other serious illnesses, then selling them on the "gray market."
Rockefeller, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., believe it become much harder for people to get drugs they need legitimately, when some licensed pharmacies move them back into the gray market, where they are sold at "exorbitant markups."
"These pharmacies seem to be taking advantage of their position and the larger shortage of some drugs to make a profit. If true, it's unacceptable," Rockefeller said in a news release from his office.
"That's why we are following this paper trail and intend to see whether people with life-threatening illnesses had trouble finding the medications they need because of these companies business practices."
The letters were sent to Priority Healthcare and Tri-Med America, LTC Pharmacy and International Pharmaceuticals, and Columbia Med Services and Columbia Medical Distributors.
A husband and wife created Priority Healthcare, a pharmacy in Maryland, and Tri-Med America, a wholesale company in New Jersey, according to Rockefeller, Harkin and Cummings.
"The couple purchased the cancer drug fluorouracil, transferred it to their own wholesaler, and then sold it to another gray market drug company at remarkable price increases, sometimes on the same day as the original purchase," the legislators stated.
The Maryland Board of Pharmacy investigated the transactions and found the couple had "never dispensed any medications" to patients. Neighbors who live near Priority Healthcare reported that "no one is ever there."
Congressional letters to the three pharmacies request answers to their questions by April 11. Letters are being sent to 19 other licensed pharmacies also suspected of making questionable deals.
Rockefeller will chair a hearing about prescription drug abuse before the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care at 10 a.m. today<co thurs>.