Internet pharmacies have been a path for counterfeit drugs to slip into the U.S. An investigation by The Wall Street Journal found that late last year, companies controlled by Kris Thorkelson's Canada Drugs Group of Cos., which operates CanadaDrugs.com, sold to U.S. physicians, two batches of counterfeit Avastin, Roche's colon cancer drug. Then, in April, the FDA sent out a warning that consumers had gotten their hands on some fake Adderall through an Internet pharmacy.
There have been convictions of some Internet pharmacy players, including one who admitted in court that he arranged with manufacturers in Mexico and India to supply him with inventory. The problem for the U.S. with trying to police Internet pharmacies is that they often maintain hundreds of websites, many of which are overseas, and if you close a site, another pops up to replace it. Still, in what appears to be the prelude to a stepped up effort against some of the biggest players, the FDA sent warning letters to three operators that linked hundreds of sites to them. The letters said they were violating FDA regulations and gave them 10 days to respond. Two appeared to operate out of Israel, but the third was CanadaDrugs.com, one of the biggest and most popular Internet pharmacy sites.
According to The Wall Street Journal, CanadaDrugs.com began sourcing drugs across the world when drugmakers prevented Thorkelson's sites from buying cheap Canadian drugs and selling them online. The WSJ story said that after counterfeit Avastin showed up in cancer doctors' clinics in the U.S. early this year, federal subpoenas went out seeking information on the sources of the drugs, particularly any information linking them to Thorkelson.