Local supplier under fire

Jefferson Dodge and Joel Dyer

The following is an excerpt from an Oct. 5 letter from U.S. Rep. Elijah
E. Cummings, ranking member of the Congressional Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform, to Mark C. Snyder, chief executive officer of
Superior Medical Supply, Inc., which has a P.O. Box in Superior.

Mr. Snyder:

I am writing to request documents relating to your
company’s purchases and sales of the drug paclitaxel, which is used to
treat breast and ovarian cancer and is in critically short supply,
according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Committee is investigating “key areas related to drug safety.”
Pursuant to this investigation, I have been working with a network of
hospital, pharmacy, and government representatives to investigate the
extent to which “gray market”
middleman companies are making substantial profits by engaging in a form of drug speculation.

And so the scrutiny begins for Superior Medical Supply, Inc., a local company described as a gray market distributor.

facility is not in Superior, actually. It operates out of a Westminster
office that has a rear loading dock, and Snyder is listing as having a
residence in Erie.

company is one of five gray marketers in the nation currently being
asked to provide information as part of Cummings’ investigation.

his letter to Snyder, Rep. Cummings outlined reports on the nation’s
drug shortages, and notes that paclitaxel in particular was in such
short supply that one cancer center was not able to enroll patients into
clinical trials because it could not guarantee the drug would be

“During the
course of our investigation, we have obtained internal documents
indicating that your company may be charging prices that are many times
higher than normal contract prices for critical drugs,” Cummings wrote
to Snyder. “According to information obtained by my staff, a typical
price for paclitaaxel is approximately $65 per vial. … In contrast,
however, documents we have obtained also indicate that an account
representative from your company offered to sell paclitaxel for over
$500 per vial, more than 7 times a typical sales price.”

This is not the first time Superior has found itself the target of regulators.

June 2009, Superior Medical Supply was fined $51,750 by the Colorado
Department of Regulatory Agencies for receiving prescription drugs from
nine entities that were not registered by the state Board of Pharmacy.

in December 2009, the California attorney general filed legal action
against Snyder and his company through that state’s Board of Pharmacy,
accusing them of misbranding drugs with false or misleading labels,
disseminating deceptive and misleading information to purchasers, and
selling controlled substances in 2008 without being registered with the
Drug Enforcement Agency to do so.

In his letter, Cummings has asked Snyder for all documents related to:

• the identity of all companies and individuals from which Superior purchased paclitaxel, the date of each purchase, the quantity of each purchase and the price paid for each purchase;

• the identity of all
companies and individuals to which Superior sold paclitaxel, the date
of each sale, the quantity of each sale and the price paid in each sale;

• the company’s
handling, storage and record-keeping procedures for the drug; • the
company’s gross revenues, net profits and compensation of company

• the company’s costs for
labor, equipment, handling, storage and delivery; and, • the case filed
against Superior by the California attorney general.

Snyder, the CEO, did not
return calls from Boulder Weekly and had not provided the requested
documents to Cummings and his committee as of press time, even though
his deadline to do so was originally Oct. 19 and had been extended to Nov. 14.

“Superior failed to submit any of the requested documentation, even though they
originally promised to do so, and even though many of the documents are
required to be retained by state and federal law,” committee
spokesperson Ashley Etienne told Boulder Weekly. “Superior has also failed to explain why they changed course from their initial statements of cooperation.

“In terms of next steps, we are considering
those now, but in the majority of cases the Committee has investigated,
we have not had to resort to a subpoena,” she says. “Typically,
companies that have nothing to hide are forthcoming and provide the requested documents without compulsory process.”