ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (WFLA) – Agents from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration raided a Zephyrhills business on Thursday that was part of a prescription crackdown which federal investigators say led to putting lives at risk.
Since so many prescriptions in the US cost an arm and a leg, there are companies like the one raided last week – The Canadian Medstore – that help mostly seniors navigate their way to finding the best prices possible.
The owner of that business has six locations and has been in operation for the past 15 years. William Hepscher told News Channel 8 he’s never been the target of the FDA and doesn’t know why the FDA is cracking down now, although an FDA spokesperson told us they’ve always enforced the law and try to keep people safe from medications from other countries that do not have FDA oversight.
After carting away boxes, agents served Hepscher with an acknowledgment letter telling him if he bought medications from international pharmacies, he’d be breaking federal law and could possibly face jail time.
“We’ve been doing this for 15 years,” Hepscher said in his office at the Zephyrhills location. “I’ve never considered myself a criminal for helping folks order medications – safe, affordable medications – from international pharmacies. All of a sudden I’m a criminal for helping these folks.”
Doris Grandy is a long-time client of Hepscher and says she doesn’t know what she’d do if his business weren’t around.
“Four-hundred dollars or two-thousand dollars a year,” Grandy told us. “That’s just one medication. I have others.”
Grandy believes without the business, some people would go without prescriptions and risk their own health.
Chris Drews has come to The Canadian Medstore for 10 years buying prescriptions for his 85-year-old mother.
“We save about $9,000 annually on those,” Drews told us, “Otherwise that’s out of pocket.”
But do the medications measure up to the US drug stores?
Hepscher says everything is done by the book and that all prescriptions are filled through licensed international pharmacies.
“The medications that we are ordering are exactly the same medication that you would get if you walked into a pharmacy in Winnipeg, Canada,” he said.
But why a crackdown now?
An FDA spokesperson told us this crackdown isn’t anything new to them, but maybe to Hepscher and his clients.
“Obviously if they come in and put a lock on our door and put handcuffs on me and take me out, it’s going to be hard for me to stay in business,” Hepscher told us, vowing he will do everything he can to keep his doors open.
The FDA wouldn’t comment on the case specifically but did tell us they don’t typically focus on individual patients, but rather keep their eyes on the suppliers of the medications.