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Virginia Doc indicted for non-controlled substance online consults

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a Virginia doctor, Torino Jennings of Mechanicsville, has been indicted for violation of the (federal) Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and for tax evasion. At the heart of the indictment was Dr. Jennings alleged filling of prescriptions for Soma (and presumably other drugs), a “legend drug” (non-controlled substance) without ever seeing the patient in person.

DOJ alleges that:

…between 2004 and 2007, (Dr. Jennings) issued between 50,000 and 100,000 prescriptions over the Internet for Soma, and other drugs, to individuals whom he had never performed a physical examination on and had never met…based on forms completed by individuals for online pharmacies. (And) the online pharmacies paid JENNINGS between $5.00 and $7.00 for each prescription he wrote.

There are a couple of interesting and important things about this.

  1. The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act explicitly made the filling of a controlled substance prescription without ever having seen a patient in person a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. However, there has been substantially more debate about whether existing law prohibits filling a prescription for a non-controlled substance in the same manner.
  2. It is interesting that DOJ is basing its prosecution not merely on violation of the FDCA, but also apparently tax evasion.
  3. Historically, we’ve seen the average amount that a physician receives per prescription (for controlled substances) based on online consultations in the $2 – $4 range, although certainly sometimes much higher.

So what’s really going on here? Our take: rogue online pharmacy operators have shifted (not entirely, but substantially) to selling non-controlled substances like Soma, tramadol, fioricet, and erectile dysfunction drugs, based on the (we believe) false premise that no in-person examination is usually required.