Following a recent positive Health Canada site inspection, Rudy Sanchez awaits a letter from the federal body which he hopes will “vindicate” Marigold Natural Pharmacy.
However, regardless of the letter’s content, Sanchez remains under indefinite suspension by the College of Pharmacists of BC due to concerns about public safety and health at the downtown Courtenay establishment.
The college says it had received a number of complaints from patients and health care providers that prompted a March investigation at Marigold.
“Since that investigation there’s been other complaints against his pharmacy from members of the public,” said Suzanne Solven, the college’s deputy registrar, during an interview at the Comox Valley Record office. “There were a number of practice standards that he was not meeting at minimum requirement. If somebody falls below that, it means there’s a public safety risk.”
She could not elaborate.
“It’s not an action we ever take lightly, it’s an extraordinary action, and we only do it in extreme circumstances where we have significant concerns about public safety.”
In eight years, Solven recalls just one other pharmacy closure, which was related to methadone.
A September college news release said unsterile and unclean facilities were used to manufacture prescription drugs and health products at Marigold. In addition, patients were counselled on alternative drug therapies and products outside the scope of pharmacy practice, and documentation was completed and submitted incorrectly.
Until the pharmacy re-opens, Sanchez cannot compound or sell prescription drugs, but is authorized to compound natural products — which are separate from prescription activity and not regulated by the college.
“A lot of people rely on us for those (natural) products,” Sanchez said, noting Health Canada was not prepared to step between the college and Marigold in respect of jurisdiction.
This was not the first time the pharmacy was shut down. In 2010, under direction from Health Canada, the college suspended Sanchez for a year-and-a-half for “similar infractions.”
Sanchez recalls Health Canada was involved in the seizure of products in 2010.
“This time they were not,” he said. “As far as I know, their actions are independent of what the college was doing.”
The college also noted human placenta intended for encapsulation was handled and prepared with little regard for safety protocols.
“As far as Health Canada is concerned, placenta encapsulation is what they call an ‘unscheduled activity,’ Sanchez said. “It’s something in the grey area where they don’t really regulate it because it’s not in any of the drug schedules that appear. There are people who are doing it in their kitchens. It’s what’s called autologous (tissue consumed by the person producing the tissue).
“The placenta capsules are only prepared for the mother, it’s not sold to anybody else,” added Sanchez, who feels the college press release implied the pharmacy was prepared to sell placenta to the public.
“In some indigenous cultures, it’s a tradition. In Chinese medicine, it is a traditional practice to cook the placenta. This is a modern version of that tradition. There’s a lot of misunderstanding, but there’s studies backing up the benefits of placenta encapsulation.”
At this stage, the college can either do a suspension pending completion of an investigation or a discipline hearing, which is conducted in the public domain.
“He already has two citations heading to discipline,” Solven said. “We’ve been down this path before.”
Sanchez can appeal to the courts. A group dubbed Save Marigold Society has been formed to support the pharmacy. For more information visit www.marigoldnaturalhealth.com.