Rx Depot Drops Drug Fight

Rx Depot, a company that helped customers buy cheaper prescription drugs in Canada, gave up its legal battle yesterday to reopen storefronts ordered closed last year by a federal judge.

The Tulsa-based company violated a law that allows only manufacturers to bring their drugs into the United States, U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan ruled in a case brought by the Food and Drug Administration.

The company, which operated in 25 states, faxed prescriptions and patients' medical histories to pharmacies in Canada, which then sent the drugs directly to patients.

Rx Depot had been appealing Eagan's order. But Fred Stoops, a lawyer representing Rx Depot, said the company and owner Carl Moore had no chance of prevailing and instead agreed to a consent decree that makes the judge's order permanent.

Stoops said the FDA is holding Moore to a higher standard than states and cities that are ignoring a federal ban and facilitating drug imports for their residents. Illinois is the latest state to set up an online clearinghouse for prescription drug purchases from abroad.

Federal officials have sent warning letters to state and city officials but have otherwise taken no steps to shut down the programs.

Ashcroft Defends FBI Probe

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft defended FBI interviews of some political protesters around the country before last month's Democratic convention in Boston, which critics described as an intimidation tactic.

At a news conference, Ashcroft said FBI agents interviewed only protesters they believed were plotting to firebomb media vehicles at the Democratic convention or might have known about such plots.

Ashcroft said suggestions that the interviews were aimed at stifling protests were an "outrageous distortion."

"We interviewed a very limited number of people that we believed were either participating in a plan to criminally and violently disrupt the Democratic National Convention, or individuals that might have known something about that plan," Ashcroft said.

Three Democratic lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee have criticized the FBI's interviews. They asked the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate what they called "possible violations of First Amendment free speech and assembly rights."

The committee's ranking Democrat, John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), along with Reps. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (Va.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), said in a letter that the FBI "appears to be engaged in systematic political harassment and intimidation of legitimate anti-war protesters."

The warning of a possible attack against news trucks, disclosed days before the Democratic convention, was based on claims by an informant who described an alleged plot by self-described anarchists in the Midwest to throw Molotov cocktails at television vans, a senior U.S. law enforcement official said.

-- From News Services