Glenelg Druggist Fights Store Closures

By Brendan Kearney

Facing criminal charges for mislabeling prescription drugs and the de-licensing of her two Baltimore locations by Medicine Shoppe International Inc., a Glenelg pharmacist is fighting to save her business and her reputation.

Pamela E. Arrey sued the Missouri-based chain on Monday and won a temporary restraining order that prevents it from terminating her license agreements, at least for the next 10 days, according to Joseph M. Kum, one of her attorneys.

Federal and state inspections last month at Arrey’s Liberty and Reisterstown road locations found falsified expiration dates on drug containers, misspelled drug names and other label alterations, according to the affidavit of a Food and Drug Administration special agent that accompanied Arrey’s arrest warrant.

The mislabeled drugs included those to treat epilepsy and breast cancer, according to the affidavit.

Arrey, 47, was charged with multiple counts of prescription drug fraud on July 28.

On Saturday, she received a letter from a Medicine Shoppe attorney terminating her license agreements, according to her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Her suit accuses Medicine Shoppe International of “spreading injurious falsehood to tarnish Plaintiff’s business reputation.”

Kum, of Amity, Kum & Suleman P.A. in Greenbelt, said the impounded drugs were to be shipped either to Cameroon or to Tampa- based PharmaLink Inc., a drug disposal company.

“None of the drugs were ever on the shelves,” Kum said. “Those drugs were not meant for sale here, and none of them were sold.”

A state inspector visited the Liberty Road Medicine Shoppe on July 8 and reported 11 cardboard drums of “suspicious bulk prescription drugs” to Matthew R. Rosenberg, the FDA special agent who swore out the affidavit. The state inspector, Chandra Mouli, found drugs in relabeled stock bottles were identical to those in the drums, according to the affidavit.

Rosenberg found similar issues when he inspected what had been impounded on July 17. The Maryland Board of Pharmacy inspected the Reisterstown Road pharmacy on July 21 and found stock bottles there that had similarly altered expiration dates, according to Rosenberg’s affidavit.

According to its Web site, Medicine Shoppe International has 10 pharmacies in the Baltimore area, including Arrey’s.

In statements to the press, the St. Louis-based company said it “learned that two of our Baltimore-area pharmacies …were recently found by the [FDA] to have sold expired medications. … [W]e do not condone these type of infractions by our licensed pharmacies.”

Beyond e-mailing the same statement, a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on Monday afternoon.

Destined for Cameroon

Kum said the drugs at issue were in a back room and had come from the Catholic Medical Mission Board Inc. intended for e-Meditech, a Burtonsville-based aid organization that partners with programs in Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. Kum said those drugs, in drums at the Liberty Road location, were not expired.

According to the affidavit, Arrey makes routine trips to Cameroon, where she owns a pharmacy and clothing store. As part of the criminal proceeding, Arrey has forfeited her passport and put up the deeds to two homes. She is prohibited from working in a pharmacy or leaving the state.

Other drugs in bags were expired or near-expired and were meant for disposal, Kum said, noting Arrey has a bill of lading as proof.

Kum said the July 8 inspection was especially thorough, leading him to believe that someone had tipped off the state agency.

Rosenberg’s affidavit notes Arrey’s stores have been cited “regularly” by the Maryland Board of Pharmacy and the Division of Drug Control for “repeated” violation of state pharmacy laws since 2004.

Kum calls that claim “false,” saying he successfully defended Arrey against one citation four years ago.

Despite the turmoil, Kum said Arrey’s two pharmacies remain open. Her suit against Medicine Shoppe requests injunctive relief to prevent interruption in her 16-year-old business. No preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled, Kum said, adding the case might be transferred to Missouri.

Originally published by Brendan Kearney.

(c) 2008 The Daily Record (Baltimore). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.