Monday, October 11, 2004

Good Lord, Those Drugs Could Be Coming Back in from Florida 

Via Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla: You may recall the following exchange from last week's debate, in which the President bravely vowed to stamp out the menace of Canadian drug fraud:
Q: Mr. President, why did you block the reimportation of safer and inexpensive drugs from Canada, which would have cut 40 to 60 percent off of the cost?

MR. BUSH: I haven't yet. Just want to make sure they're safe. When a drug comes in from Canada I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you. And that's why the F.D.A. and that's why the surgeon general are looking very carefully to make sure it can be done in a safe way. I've got an obligation to make sure our government does everything we can to protect you. And my worry is, is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada and it might be from a Third World.
If you find yourself scratching your head and thinking Holy Moses, he's the leader of the free world. How does he think up this shit? -- remember, there's a simple explanation. The President, a deeply religious man, is guided by the voices in his head. Espcially the voice of his Higher Father, Karl Rove, who just renewed his long-term lease on George's ear canal.

In this instance, however, we suspect the issue of scary drugs was very much on the President's mind to begin with -- since his beloved brother Jeb is about to be subpoenaed in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by two Florida pharmacists. And talk about your eerie similarities:
In a rare twist, the Fowlers recently blocked the state from intervening in their case after raising concerns about potential conflicts. Most whistleblowers welcome government assistance, but the Fowlers worried that state officials might be influenced by their ties to [Caremark]. Based on the latest court filing, the whistleblowers now question whether the pharmacy benefit manager received favorable treatment from the highest political office in Florida.

Specifically, the Fowlers are seeking to discover whether Bush corresponded with Caremark CEO Mac Crawford about the company's performance -- and about an alleged "tainted drugs issue" in particular. They also want any communications between the two parties involving a powerful lobbying firm, employed by Caremark, that enjoys a warm relationship with the governor . . . .

The Fowlers have accused Caremark of changing, shorting and even destroying customer prescriptions in an effort to maximize profits. But they also make one allegation that has yet to be lodged against others in the embattled pharmacy benefit management industry. They claim that Caremark sold customers prescriptions that had been returned through the mail without first testing the drugs for damage . . . .

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, notes that Bush employed Caremark director C. David Brown as the central Florida finance chief for his gubernatorial campaign. The group says that Brown raised at least $200,000 in campaign funds -- earning him elite "Ranger" status -- for President Bush as well . . . .

In their latest court filing, the Caremark whistleblowers have asked Gov. Bush for information about an alleged incident involving Caremark's distribution of "tainted drugs" in April 2002, and a meeting between Caremark's CEO and the governor that supposedly took place just two months later.

As previously reported by TheStreet.com in July, the plaintiffs claim that the state failed to protect customers after Caremark sold "drugs from unknown origin" to Florida customers three years ago. The state "did not further investigate Caremark's buying practices with respect to the purchase and sale of drugs ... [and] allowed Caremark to handle that occurrence wholly internally," a past court filing states.

Several sources, including a state attorney who helped oversee the Caremark contract, confirmed that the incident did in fact take place. Mallory Harrell, the former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services, said that state investigators were "looking into the potential sale of drugs on the black market in Miami, and Caremark's name came up" in 2002.

She said the state worried that Caremark may have purchased some sensitive autoimmune medications from First Choice Pharmaceuticals that were not properly tracked and, therefore, suspect. But she said that Caremark speedily contacted state customers who might have been impacted and handled the entire situation quite admirably.

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