OLYMPIA--Attorney General Christine Gregoire today filed suit against an online pharmacy and a Florida physician who prescribed powerful antibiotics to treat and prevent anthrax without consulting, meeting or even speaking with patients.
The suit was filed after an Attorney General's investigator successfully ordered the prescription antibiotic Ciprofloxacin from the website using a fictitious name and without consulting a doctor as required by Washington law.
"We can't allow anyone to violate our laws and threaten people's health in order to profit from the fear of bioterrorism," Gregoire said. "Improper use of antibiotics can make them ineffective, and the unsupervised use of any prescription medicine can be harmful, or even deadly."
The lawsuit seeks to stop the illegal practices and obtain financial penalties and restitution for consumers.
According to the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court, the website Aprescribe.com, based in Florida, offers prescription drugs including Cipro and Viagra.
The lawsuit names as defendants the operator of the website, B&G Wholesale, Inc., Linzer Burton, its president, and Dr. Serge Lefevere Alexandre, the physician who allegedly writes prescriptions for consumers who order drugs from it.
The website describes Cipro as protection against anthrax, but does not provide any information about risks and side effects of the drug, including the fact that indiscriminate or premature use of Cipro can render it ineffective.
Customers do not have to submit a prescription, but are asked to list any current or past medical problems and surgeries. However, the space for consumers to provide that information is already filled out with the word "none," and patients would have to delete that answer to submit additional information.
The Florida physician named in the lawsuit, Dr. Alexandre, purportedly reviews the medical information and then writes a prescription for the drug ordered by the consumer without any examination of the patient.
In addition to the pre-completed medical information, the site also requires consumers to certify a series of statements, including an acknowledgement that the consumer is "fully informed and understands the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of the prescription drugs."
The statements also include an agreement to waive all liability claims against the company.
The lawsuit alleges that these practices are illegal. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants are not properly registered to do business as a pharmacy in Washington.
The investigation was conducted in coordination with the Florida Attorney General's Office, which has also filed a similar suit against the company today.