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Dr. Ibanez Sentenced to Four Years

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Dr. Juan Ibanez, who wrote thousands of prescriptions for hydrocodone (generic Vicodin) based solely on an online questionnaire, has been sentenced to four years in prison.

The article says:

Customers only had to fill out a brief online questionnaire, select a dosage and occasionally submit medical records. At no time did they see a doctor.

Dr. Ibanez’s actions were, of course, prior to the passage of the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, which clarified that writing prescriptions solely on the basis of an online questionnaire, without ever physically examining a patient in person, is not lawful. This suggests that the new law, which went into effect in late 2008, served to clarify and strengthen existing law, not outlaw something previously permissible, although some commentators disagree with our analysis.

What is striking is the amount of money that was involved in Dr. Ibanez’s operation:

Ibanez…was involved in a “criminal organization” that grossed more than $85 million from 2003 to 2007 by distributing the pills, according to the plea agreement.

The article indicated that Ibanez was responsible for distributing over 50 million pills of hydrocodone across the US between 2003 and 2007.

LegitScript standards require that online pharmacies not fill “invalid” prescriptions, which includes prescriptions written solely on the basis of an online questionnaire. This applies to both controlled substances and non-controlled substances, such as Lipitor or tramadol.