HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Drug Sample Sales Scheme Nets Indictments

As reported yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Federal authorities in Philadelphia charged three pharmacists and two doctors yesterday with illegally selling hundreds of thousands of pills, including popular medications Prilosec, Celebrex and Prozac, that drug companies had handed out as promotional free samples."  As remarkable as is the defendants' alleged abuse of their patients' trust, the dollars and quantities of samples involved offer a glimpse into the extent of pharmaceutical companies' "free sample" marketing programs:

Drug-sample sales defrauded customers and third-party pharmacy benefit managers, which ultimately paid for what had been free samples, said David R. Hoffman, the assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia who is prosecuting the case.

According to court papers, pharmacists bought thousands of samples at steep discounts from doctors or drug company salesmen, broke open the individualized packages, and dispensed the medications with other pills in inventory. The process of selling the drug samples - which took place between 1993 and mid-2001 - also made it impossible to track the safety of the medications, Hoffman said. An investigation is continuing.

Charged yesterday with conspiracy to commit health-care fraud and illegally selling prescription drugs were pharmacists Mark Rubin, 51, of Southampton; Bruce Goldberg, 53, of Huntingdon Valley; and Howard Dall, 58, of Ambler. All three face substantial jail time and fines if convicted.

Rubin owned the Summerdale Pharmacy, and Goldberg owned the K&A Pharmacy and the Marcus Foster Pharmacy, all three in Philadelphia, court records state. Dall owned Ralph's Pharmacy in Conshohocken and the Gladwyne Pharmacy. The U.S. attorney noted that the defendants no longer own any of the five pharmacies.

Rubin paid about $500,000 from January 1993 through September 2000 for free samples of drugs that included Celebrex, Paxil, Prozac, Serzone, Biaxin, Augmentin, Zyprexa and Remeron. Goldberg spent about $250,000 on free samples. Court records did not state how much Dall paid for the free samples.

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