For the second time, Marigold Compounding and Natural Pharmacy in Courtenay has been shut down.
Manager Isidore ‘Rudy’ Sanchez faces a suspension after an investigation revealed “serious concerns” with the pharmacy site and its practice, the College of Pharmacists of BC said. Believing the pharmacy was posing a public safety and patient health risk, the college dispatched an investigations team that shut down operations Friday morning.
“What they saw shocked them,” said Mykle Ludvigsen, the college’s director of public accountability, noting the closure is warranted. “Our act provides for that. It’s used in very, very rare circumstances.”
The college says unsterile and unclean facilities have been used to manufacture a variety of prescription drugs and over-the-counter health products without authority to do so. In addition, human placenta intended for encapsulation was accepted, handled and prepared with little regard for safety protocols when handling human tissue — despite the lack of a proper facility or the regulatory approval to provide it.
Further, the college says patients were counselled on alternative drug therapies and products “well outside the scope of pharmacy practice and without notification to the original prescriber,” a news release states.
It also says documentation was completed and submitted incorrectly to a number of relevant parties.
Sanchez’ lawyer Clive Ansley believes the closure is part of an ongoing witch-hunt by the college, which he suggests is conducting police work for pharmaceutical companies.
“It’s not isolated,” Ansley said. “The college has been going after various natural pharmacists for a number of years. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a campaign on their part to make the world safe for big pharmaceutical companies. The college constantly makes these accusations that they’re closing these natural pharmacies down out of a concern for danger to the public…The witch-hunt is outrageous and disgraceful in my view.”
To Ansley’s understanding, each year in Canada there are roughly 300-350 deaths from side effects from products from pharmaceutical companies, but a death has yet to occur from products compounded by Marigold or other naturopaths.
In 2010, under direction from Health Canada, the college slapped Sanchez with a year-and-a-half suspension for what it calls “similar infractions.” He completed educational training, paid a fine to the college, and agreed to practise pharmacy in accordance with standards, and with federal and provincial legislation.
Ansley recalls Marigold filed a lawsuit against the college after it sent a trailer that “stole” about $250,000 worth of inventory “for no good reason,” and shut it down for 14 months. The college said it would return Sanchez’ licence if Marigold fulfilled certain conditions, among them a $30,000 payment and withdrawal of the lawsuit.
Since then, Ansley said the witch-hunt has continued. He notes yearly pharmacy inspections normally take a day with one inspector, who commonly finds minor infractions. But he says six inspectors spent two days going through Marigold during a “routine” inspection of the business, located at 576 England Ave., in March.
“That tells you everything you need to know,” Ansley said. “Since that time, they have continued to just pepper Rudy with a huge number of questions.”
The college says the “extraordinary suspension” to Marigold’s pharmacy licence and Sanchez’ registration as a pharmacist will remain in place until further notice.
“This is not usual,” Ludvigsen said. “I’ve been here three years, and this is the first time I’ve had to deal with this.”
The college suggests consulting a physician for those who have used any Marigold products and are concerned about their health. If a prescription needs to be refilled, contact your prescriber to write a new one.