INTERNET WEB SITE OPERATOR PLEADS GUILTY TO ACQUIRING DRUGS BY MISREPRESENTATION & SUBTERFUGE
Web Site Unlawfully Facilitated Distribution of Controlled Substances Following Completion of
LISA A. STEVENS, 43, of Woodinville, Washington, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to Aiding and Abetting the Acquisition of Controlled Substances by Misrepresentation and Subterfuge, a felony offense punishable by up to four years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to court records, from 2004 through 2006, STEVENS operated IntegraRX, a drug prescription web site with offices in Kenmore, Washington. IntegraRX advertised for sale over the internet a variety of Schedule IV controlled substances. The method of operation was that a customer would order prescription drugs on the web site, www.IntegraRX.com, and pay for the drugs by credit card purchase payable to the web site. The customer would also fill out an on-line questionnaire provided by the web site, answering questions relating to their health. IntegraRX contracted with a number of out-of-state physicians to approve the prescriptions based upon the completed questionnaires, and out-of-state pharmacies to fill the prescriptions.
STEVENS was aware that none of the physicians with whom IntegraRX contracted, ever had any direct contact with, or conducted any physical examination concerning, the customer/patient for whom they were prescribing the drugs and who were receiving the drugs. None of the patients ever had any means of contacting the authorizing physicians. All of their contact was with the web site. The web site would simply forward the order and questionnaire to a contracting physician who would authorize the prescription sight unseen, and forward the prescription to a participating pharmacy, who would send the drugs by commercial carrier to the customer. IntegraRX sold the drugs at a premium, compensated the doctors and pharmacies, and kept a percentage of the profits generated through these customers orders. Hundreds of customer orders for Schedule IV controlled substances were completed and sent to customers, including drugs such as phentermine (marketed as Ionamin), and zolpiden (marketed as Ambien), among other Schedule IV controlled substances.
Federal law requires that in order to be lawful, any dispensing of controlled substances by a physician must be based upon a valid physician-patient relationship by a treating physician. This requires more than completion of an on-line questionnaire and forwarding that questionnaire to the physician. It requires real consultation with, and examination by, a treating physician who is prescribing the drug based upon that physician’s examination. In the case of IntegraRX, by design, the physician never met with, examined, or spoke with the customer. No independent verification of information set forth on the questionnaire was ever possible. The patients were never able to speak with the doctors and the doctors were never able to speak with the patients. Instead, IntegraRX operated simply as an on-line facilitator of the unlawful distribution of controlled substances. LISA A. STEVENS helped organize the business, establish its unlawful method of operation, and carried on its operations.
In performing the above actions, STEVENS knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully acquired, facilitated, and aided and abetted others in acquiring controlled substances by misrepresentation and subterfuge in violation of federal law.
National statistics show an increasing level of unlawful diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical controlled substances, including acquiring the drugs unlawfully over the internet. The United States will continue to target those unlawful web site operators and individuals who are using the internet to unlawfully acquire and distribute controlled substances. Individuals are reminded that it is a violation of federal law to acquire a controlled substance over the internet without a valid and lawful medical prescription.
STEVENS is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on January 9, 2009.
The business operations of IntegraRX terminated in August 2006, following execution of a federal search warrant at the Kenmore business premises. Computers, computer equipment, and servers were seized and have since been forfeited to the United States.
This case is part of a continuing Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation focused upon the unlawful diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances within the Western District of Washington and elsewhere.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Ronald J. Friedman and Douglas B. Whalley.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.