The Billings Outpost

Bitter end

A promising start but a bitter end for Gov. Brian Schweitzer. I started a business, Rx Depot, in 2003 to help Montana residents learn about and access inexpensive Canadian patent prescription drugs. It was Business 101: Find a need and fill it.

The Montana Board of Pharmacy came knocking before the doors were open and the message was clear: “Montana drug revenues are our business, buster.” So began a six-year odyssey of court hearings and a Supreme Court appeal as I fought to represent the interest of Montana drug consumers and the board fought to represent the financial interests of Montana pharmacies.

The first action was a court hearing in August 2003, at which the board demanded an illegal injunction that the court granted, stating that it would be illegal and then dissolved it four months later because it was ... illegal. The damage to the business was obvious, but the state ducked responsibility because the illegal injunction was ... the judge’s fault.

I started another business, Canadian Connection, in April 2004 and the board was back in my office shortly saying, “We’ll do the dance again.” Then the plot thickened. Out of the West rode Brandin’ Iron Brian Schweitzer, a budding politician looking for a hot issue and cheap Canadian patent prescription drugs was just the ticket! So you rounded up some seniors and headed north cursing the drug companies and the U.S. Congress. You were in high dudgeon.

That’s when our paths crossed and it was an ill-fated meeting. We both ended up in the vendor area at MontanaFair in Billings in August 2004. You came over, introduced yourself and asked what I thought about your new plan to change the law on drug importation announced earlier in the day in The Billings Gazette. Not having read the paper yet, I was speechless. You seemed to deflate like a soufflé and that was that.

When I did have a chance to see the paper and your web site, it was apparent that you planned to change the law on importation. Unfortunately, that is a federal law, not a state law.

At that time, I and most Montanans hadn’t yet realized that your ego is as big as all outdoors and, on your signature issue, cutting the cost of U.S. patent prescription drugs, no one was going to lead Montana drug consumers to the promised land except “Moses” Schweitzer. But when you couldn’t do what you wanted to do, you failed to do what you could do. That was the Greek tragedy of “hubris.”

Although my business, assisting Montana drug consumers to learn about and access Canadian drugs, is allowed by the U.S. Government and about 45 states and understood to not be the practice of pharmacy, “Moses” gave the Board of Pharmacy the green light and spending authority (per Board Minutes) to get rid of me. You would brook no rival in the “doing good” business.

That’s when the Christian morality play of some of the Seven Deadly Sins began to play out. The “greedy” Board of Pharmacy with a voracious “gluttony” for every last dollar of revenue and profit from Montana drug consumers embarked on a six-year crusade through the court system to put me and others who might follow out of business.

It became six years because I wouldn’t cave to its “lust” for power and was willing to endure the “wrath” of all the King’s horses and all the King’s men. Now the board’s actions were perfectly understandable; it was simple naked economic self-interest.

The surprise for me was the conduct of the judiciary. If sloth be considered intellectual laziness and lack of diligence, it was the judiciary’s stock in trade. Through the district courts and a Supreme Court opinion, law, fact and precedent failed to be recognized.

My exercise in self representation cost about $900 in filing fees and transcript costs and seven unremarkable days in the Lewis and Clark County stone hotel. You, on the other hand, probably expended something north of $100,000 in taxpayer-funded legal costs to make the state safe for international drug companies and Montana pharmacies.

On the issue of helping Montana drug consumers escape the outrageous costs of U.S. patent prescription drugs, you came in with a bang but eight years later are going out with a whimper. A drug company CEO couldn’t have bollixed things up worse for Montanans. I can only reiterate my earlier opinion: On your signature issue you have been a fraud, a sham, a modern day grifter with three shells and a pea.

Tom Kennedy


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