On Friday, the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment of Washington, D.C.-based pharmacist Titilayo Akintomide Akinyoyenu, who ran apexonlinepharmacy.com, for allegedly filling prescriptions for customers solely on the basis of an online questionnaire, without requiring a prior in-person doctor’s visit.
The activity allegedly took place between June 2006 and June 2010. For at least some of this time period (as far as we can tell, for most of that time period), the Internet pharmacy website was PharmacyChecker-approved. As we noted in a 2008 report, PharmacyChecker’s approval was what enabled apexonlinepharmacy.com to participate in online advertising with the major search engines.
This follows a long-standing pattern of PharmacyChecker-approved Internet pharmacies selling prescription drugs without requiring a valid prescription or otherwise operating illegally. For example, PharmacyChecker has approved:
- ShopEastWest.com, one of the websites operated by recently indicted Asian Capital Equities, and which we noted was selling prescription drugs without requiring any prescription at all.
- LiveWellRx and its associated websites, which shipped Soma without a prescription to a LegitScript employee operating undercover as a 13-year-old.
- CanadaDrugs, tied to counterfeit cancer medicine sales.
- PharmNet, also identified as selling controlled substances without requiring a prescription.
- And, of course, the plethora of so-called “Canadian” Internet pharmacies actually shipping unapproved prescription drugs into the US from places other than Canada, such as Turkey and Singapore.
Unlike PharmacyChecker, LegitScript declined to approve apexonlinepharmacy.com. It was clear to us that the pharmacy was not appropriately licensed in many states it offered to ship drugs to; what’s more, the website was a major advertiser for drugs such as Tramadol (which is now a controlled substance) and Fioricet (which contains butalbital, a Schedule III controlled substance). Legitimate Internet pharmacies don’t predicate their business strategies on selling drugs that are commonly targeted for abuse. (To be clear: legitimate pharmacies may dispense those drugs, but they do not hinge an entire advertising strategy on those drugs, as apexonlinepharmacy.com appeared to.)
As time goes on and indictments covering the period of 2006 to 2010 — the time period during which PharmacyChecker served as the gatekeeper for search engine advertising programs — are unsealed, the extent to which PharmacyChecker was a critical partner in various allegedly illegal online pharmacies’ business and advertising strategies becomes more and more clear.