Rx Depot Warned by FDA

Hundreds of East Texans may lose their source for inexpensive prescription drugs. The State and Federal Governments say Rx Depot in Tyler is breaking the law by allowing customers to order medications from Canada.

Sharon Umphress used to spend $200 a month for prescription drugs for her husband. Today, she found a new way, a cheaper way to get the medications. "I will be getting three month supplies instead of month to month and it's going to cost me half as much through a Canadian pharmacy."

Sharon called Rx Depot in Tyler. The company helps East Texans find Canadian pharmacies where drugs are up to 70% less expensive. But the State of Texas says what Rx Depot is doing is illegal because Rx Depot does not have a pharmacy licence. The State Board of Pharmacies says without those credentials, Rx may not "receive, process, or dispense medication orders." It also says Rx Depot may not "display the word 'pharmacy' or a graphic representation that would lead the public to believe the business is a pharmacy."

But the company's problems don't stop there. In March, the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter telling Rx Depot to stop importing prescription medication from Canada. The letter said the FDA may take legal action without further notice. Possible actions include seizure and/or injunction.

Sharon Umphress says the government's hard line stance is unfair to the people who need the medication. "If they're going to be able to work under a capitalist system, if they get to charge that much money, aren't we allowed to find the best price we can?"

Owner Gabriel Capelli says Rx Depot is not a pharmacy. He says they don't stock the drugs. They don't order the drugs. They don't receive the drugs. All they do is put the customer in touch with the Canadian pharmacy. The pharmacy then ships the medication directly to the customer and pays Rx Depot a finder's fee.

There was another company, Rx Connection, which had a kiosk in the Tyler Square Mall. Rx Connection is no longer in East Texas. But, they are they in same trouble as Rx Depot. The state sent a Cease and Desist letter to Rx Connection earlier this month. But, the company continues to run it's Beaumont store and customers can order prescriptions from Rx Connection's toll free phone number.

The debate has reached Capitol Hill. Last month the House passed a bill to allow people to import medication from other countries. But the Senate is not expected to pass the bill, and the President opposes the idea.

Stephen Parr, reporting.