LegitScript regrets the necessity of responding to PharmacyChecker’s continuing false allegations. However, it is important to explain that these allegations contain material fabrications and falsehoods. This page provides, for those who are interested, a point-by-point response.
As background, PharmacyChecker is an Internet pharmacy verification service whose contracts with the major search engines were cancelled earlier this year. PharmacyChecker alleges that the termination of its service contracts with the search engines was the result of a government conspiracy led by LegitScript’s President, spanning both the current and previous White House Administrations. According to this theory, Mr. Horton, while a staffer at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in 2007, single-handedly authored a letter sent by the Executive Branch to Congress criticizing PharmacyChecker and, while still a government employee, started a business (LegitScript) and simultaneously accepted bribes from the pharmaceutical industry. PharmacyChecker argues that the reason for all of this was a a coordinated effort between LegitScript’s president, the pharmaceutical industry, and perhaps the US government, to deny US residents “affordable medications from Canada.”
The allegations are completely false. The truth is much more simple and, admittedly, less entertaining.
While serving as the Internet pharmacy verification service for the major search engines, PharmacyChecker approved numerous websites acting in, or facilitating, violation of federal and state law. These included websites facilitating the sale of prescription drugs without requiring a valid prescription, and even a website identified by the FDA as selling counterfeit drugs. Some of these Internet pharmacies were listed on PharmacyChecker’s own website.
LegitScript played a role in documenting PharmacyChecker’s verification of unlawful pharmacy websites, including in public reports. LegitScript also encouraged the search engines to adopt stricter policies in the interest of public health and legal compliance. LegitScript’s position was that, in the interest of public safety, any Internet pharmacy verification service should require compliance with federal and state laws and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) standards, whether that service was the NABP, LegitScript, or someone else entirely. LegitScript was therefore strongly supportive when the search engines adopted stricter policies earlier this year, requiring Internet pharmacies to be verified by the NABP’s VIPPS program.
In the months following PharmacyChecker’s replacement by VIPPS, PharmacyChecker has launched a disinformation campaign against LegitScript, insinuating that LegitScript masterminded the events leading to PharmacyChecker’s replacement (even though LegitScript was not the entity selected to replace them). Additionally, it should be noted that the foreign drug suppliers whom PharmacyChecker strongly defends, and whose websites PharmacyChecker approves, stand to lose millions in lost sales as LegitScript increasingly works with search engines, Registrars and ISPs to shutdown unlawful pharmacy websites. This explains, but does not justify, the false statements below.
Point by Point Response
1. In April 2007, the ONDCP sent Congress a policy document, as required by Congress, outlining a strategy to deal with a number of prescription drug abuse issues, including Internet advertisements for Internet pharmacies selling controlled substance prescription drugs without a prescription. The strategy stated that PharmacyChecker, then used by the search engines, was not an “adequate, reliable verification service” because it approved Internet pharmacies considered by the FDA to be operating unlawfully. The document was the result of consultation among the FDA, DEA and ONDCP and reflected input from all of those federal agencies. As any person who has worked for federal government is aware, any policy document or strategy, particularly one that is submitted to Congress, must be reviewed and signed off on by dozens of individuals, in this case at multiple agencies. For PharmacyChecker to suppose that a single staffer had the ability to independently write, and push through, a report, particularly one ultimately signed on by a member of the President’s cabinet, without numerous other individuals providing editing and input and approving it, is almost laughable.
2. Similarly, the rest of the allegations are wholly false. PharmacyChecker’s allegation that Mr. Horton received money (or the promise of money) from any person, business, or other entity while in government, or after leaving government, in connection with the letter, or anything to do with LegitScript or the pharmaceutical industry at all, is a lie and is slanderous. The truth is:
While in government, Mr. Horton’s ONLY income came from the government. (The sole exception involved some family real estate investment.)
Mr Horton never sought nor received any other income while in government, whether from the pharmaceutical industry or any other party.
After leaving government in April 2007 until mid-2009, neither Mr. Horton nor LegitScript had any income or revenue at all, from anywhere or anybody (except, some family real estate-related revenue). In fact, LegitScript’s operating costs and Mr. Horton’s living expenses came entirely from personal investment by Mr. Horton from his savings, refinancing, credit cards, and loans from family members.
PharmacyChecker’s continuing allegations that Mr. Horton and/or LegitScript are or were, either prior to or after Mr. Horton’s departure from government, “funded” by anyone at all are blatant lies.
3. Another false accusation from PharmacyChecker is that Mr. Horton started LegitScript while still employed by the federal government (which, if true, would be an ethical violation). Again, this is simply untrue. Business registration records are clear that the company was formed well after Mr. Horton’s departure, and the company’s bank account after that. PharmacyChecker’s own allegations include information proving that the website was launched more than a year after Mr. Horton’s departure from government. While the domain name legitscript.com was registered shortly before Mr. Horton’s departure, the website had no content until months later, and Mr. Horton had registered multiple domain names at previous points in time, none with any content, reserved for undetermined future use. Registering a domain name, especially one without any content at all, is far different from using it to run a business and constitutes no ethical violation whatsoever.
4) PharmacyChecker also alleges that Mr Horton in 2009 created a company, Evergreen Government Relations, to lobby the government on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. This is completely false. Indeed, in 2009, precisely because LegitScript was not yet profitable and Mr Horton had no source of income, but remained committed to LegitScript, Mr Horton was informed about a part-time opportunity to represent the Oregon Circuit Court Judges Association (OCCJA) before the Oregon legislature, a possible commitment of a few hours a week. This was completely unrelated pharmacies or the pharmaceutical industry at all. In order to potentially avail himself of this option, Mr Horton created Evergreen Government Relations, a wholly separate and unrelated company, in order to potentially represent the OCCJA. The opportunity did not end up working out; later in 2009, LegitScript’s business finally began to take off. Evergreen Government Relations never conducted any business at all, lobbying or otherwise; it never had any income, revenue, employees, or any activities at all; and most certainly, it had nothing at all to do with LegitScript, pharmacies or the pharmaceutical industry, nor was it intended to.
5. PharmacyChecker makes other arguments that, although intended to represent wrongdoing on LegitScript’s part, simply make no sense. The company makes an issue that LegitScript was first registered as an LLC in 2007, then a non-profit in 2008, and then again as an LLC thereafter. There’s nothing to hide here: LegitScript was a brand new entity, and without yet even having any revenue, LegitScript was exploring various business models. As noted, neither Mr. Horton nor LegitScript made a dime until 2009; during this time, Mr. Horton periodically explored, but did not end up entering, other employment options, as well as various business models for LegitScript in an effort to make it successful.
PharmacyChecker is correct about one thing: LegitScript has consistently, and publicly, argued that search engines, Registrars, ISPs, and other third parties should require that Internet pharmacies adhere to NABP-approved standards and to federal law. LegitScript stands by that belief. Indeed, PharmacyChecker, in declining to require adherence to those standards, ended up approving websites engaged in the sale of non-FDA approved drugs and selling prescription drugs without a valid prescription. Given those facts, it should come as no surprise that the search engines ultimately terminated their contracts ? or that in 2007, the federal government, in a request from Congress, felt compelled to note that PharmacyChecker is not an “adequate or reliable (Internet pharmacy) verification service.” It should also come as no surprise that a company that would approve websites not in compliance with federal and state laws would also be willing to fabricate information about a competitor.