Canadian drug store to open

Consumers come to the store, set up an account and provide Farah with a valid prescription for each medication they'd like, and he places the order with a Canadian pharmacy, he said.

"They send it to the customer's house in less than two weeks," Farah said. He said he works with a family of seven pharmacies in Canada. Customers do not pay him but they pay the Canadian drug store. He receives a percentage of the profits from the Canadians.

"There are no drugs here," Farah said. James Battaglioli, owner of the Canada Drugs Services franchise headquartered in Naples, Fla., said his stores do not handle drugs; they only process orders. They also limit the drugs they process.

"We don't ship refrigerated medications like insulin," he said. "You can't cold pack most of them for more than four or five days." Battaglioli said Canada Drug Service also refuses to process orders for narcotics and painkillers.

"We don't want to get involved in that kettle of fish," he said. They mainly work with drugs "that are very expensive" which people often "have to take every day pretty much for the rest of their lives," he said.

Canada Drug Service has been operation in Florida for two years, expanding outside the state about eight months ago, Battaglioli said. They have 26 locations in the United States with 10 more opening within the next 30 days, he said.

The location in Wauwatosa has been very popular since it opened.

"Basically, our chief concern is the amount of traffic" this business is creating, said Nancy Welch, director of community development in Wauwatosa. "There has been more traffic than the parking lot can hold so people are parking on the street." She said the city was watching the traffic problem, and if it persisted they could revoke the store's occupancy permit.

Welch said there were some concerns about the legality of the business itself, but she talked with the city attorney and determined they were not in violation of any city ordinances.

The store is apparently not in violation of any state law either.

"I've done extensive work with attorneys to make sure this is legit," Farah said. "The state investigated us and found us to not be breaking any state laws."

The franchises work through a system of re-importation, Battaglioli said. Manufacturers in the United States send the drugs to Canada, where pharmacologists fill the prescriptions and the drugs are shipped back to consumers in the United States.

"These drugs were never touched by human hands," he said.

As it stands, this system of re-importation is not illegal, according to the Pharmaceutical Market Access Act of 2003, but restrictions do not exist on what can and cannot be imported. The act, which passed the House of Representatives this summer, seeks "to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to promulgate regulations for the re-importation of prescription drugs, and for other services."

Seth Boffeli, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said this bill offers "short term relief" until Congress can enact "sweeping prescription drug reform." Boffeli bashed Congressman Mark Green (R-Wis.) for being the only Wisconsin congressman voting against the bill.

"As much as I support the re-importation of prescription drugs, this bill contained neither the safeguards nor the transparency guarantees I believe it needed to gain my support, " Green said in a statement.