- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

A federal grand jury in Alexandria yesterday returned a 108-count indictment against 10 persons and three companies, charging them with illegally selling controlled substances and other prescription drugs — including Viagra — over the Internet.

The indictment charges that customers were able to purchase the drugs with inadequate or no medical supervision, little diagnostic testing and scant monitoring of the person’s response to the drugs as required by law.

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The Internet sites used mass e-mail and advertising to sell drugs, giving discounts to customers who bought large quantities.

“This case is about a dangerous new spin on an old problem,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty. “Drug trafficking in cyberspace is just as harmful to public safety as drug trafficking on street corners. The advent of the Internet does not mean doctors and pharmacists can bypass rules concerning the dispensing of prescription drugs, particularly controlled substances.”

Among those charged was Vincent K. Chhabra, 32, of Golden Beach, Fla.

The three companies named in the indictment as a part of the conspiracy were USA Prescription Inc., Chhabra Group LLC, and VKC Consulting LLC, all owned or operated by Mr. Chhabra. The 10 suspects face prison terms ranging from three to 10 years and fines as high as $125 million, if convicted.

The indictment said that the drugs, including Bontril, Meridia, Xenical and Viagra, contained false and misleading labels and that the suspects used an “online ordering process” to allow customers to order prescription drugs over the Internet, through Web sites such as “www.get-it-on.com.”

When the customers ordered drugs online, they chose the types, quantities and doses they wanted and answered some questions on a medical form. No one checked the accuracy of the information, as required by the Controlled Substances Act.

Mr. McNulty said customers obtained the drugs without ever meeting a doctor face to face.

“The indictment alleges that many times no physician reviewed the customers’ order forms at all,” Mr. McNulty said, adding that the conspiracy sought only to maximize profit.

Mr. McNulty said that in order to avoid regulatory and law-enforcement officials, the suspects avoided allowing physicians to authorize dispensing drugs to customers in states in which they were licensed.

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