To get their hands on thousands of customers consuming expensive specialty drugs, two Laval pharmacists paid millions of dollars to Innomar, a major patient support program (PSP) manager. Funded by giants of the pharmaceutical industry, these turnkey programs evolve on the fringes of public health networks and offer a support service for patients throughout their therapy. This practice of pharmacists to acquire this lucrative clientele contravenes their code of ethics.
Daniel Vermette and Marc Chabot are co-owners of a specialty drug pharmacy located on Curé-Labelle Boulevard in Laval. Mr. Vermette also owns a pharmacy in Quebec City with his other partner, Jérôme Bergeron.
In April 2022, the three pharmacists pleaded guilty before the Order of Pharmacists of Quebec (OPQ) to “obtaining” patients from Innomar, a major drug wholesaler and manager of patient support programs (PSP). This practice contravenes the pharmacists’ code of ethics, which strictly prohibits them from “obtaining customers through an intermediary”.
For their part, the pharmacists Vermette and Chabot also pleaded guilty to having paid Innomar in return a percentage of the revenue generated by the clientele obtained. They “illegally shared [leurs] fees with a non-pharmacist third party”, we read in a decision of the Disciplinary Council of the Order.
The investigation by the syndic of the OPQ spanned ten years. She demonstrated that from December 2012, under an agreement, “Innomar directs patients registered with the various PSPs it manages to the two pharmacies, in exchange for fees representing [environ 2,5 %] of the gross volume of drug sales”.
A profitable deal. Between 12,900 and 17,400 patients participating in a PSP did business with pharmacies in Laval and Quebec, according to the OPQ survey. The pharmacists paid “between $500,000 and $600,000 a month” to a company owned by Daniel Vermette himself, who in turn transferred this sum to Innomar. Several million dollars have been paid to Innomar since 2012.
Under this agreement, Innomar sent pharmacies a secure email containing the information of patients newly registered with its PSPs by medical specialists: names, prescribed medications and means of contacting them. And this, without the prior consent of the patients, is it indicated in the decision: “It is then up to the pharmacies of Laval or Quebec to contact the patient in order to obtain his coordinates and his consent and then fill the prescription. »
Twenty inquiries from either community pharmacists or patients dissatisfied with having been contacted and served by one of the two pharmacies for their free doses have been submitted to the OPQ over the years.
“To have access to the drug included in a PSP, the patient is enrolled in a program that integrates the pharmacies that the wholesaler chooses without the intervention of the patient. Patients thus become captives of the PSP”, is it described in the decision of the Disciplinary Council of the OPQ.
Pharmacists Jérôme Bergeron, Marc Chabot and Daniel Vermette were ordered to pay fines of $30,000, $133,000 and $140,500 respectively.
Beyond this agreement, pharmacists Daniel Vermette and Marc Chabot have other business relationships with Innomar, noted The duty. Through the real estate companies that belong to them, the two pharmacists rent commercial space to Innomar infusion clinics, one in Laval, the other in Sainte-Foy according to the land register.
During his testimony to the Disciplinary Council, the syndic of the OPQ, Bernard Deshaies, did not hide having “certain concerns” about the risks of repeat offenses for pharmacists: “To my knowledge, the three pharmacists are still owners and , to date, I have not been informed of any modifications or major changes in their business relationship with Innomar. To my knowledge, they still seem to have business dealings with Innomar,” he says.
To my knowledge, the three pharmacists are still owners and, to date, I have not been informed of any changes or major changes in their business relationship with Innomar.
Innomar continues to present on its website the pharmacies of Laval and Quebec as the only Quebec pharmacies with which it is associated. Neither the pharmacists nor Innomar responded to the numerous interview requests from the Duty.