Suit alleges Russian doctor, pharmacy made arrangement to control business Health-Rite says Five Star took over prescriptions

November 04, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Dimitri and Olga Kargman opened the Baltimore area's first "Russian pharmacy" in March with a built-in clientele of immigrant Russian Jews looking for herbal remedies and prescription drugs with instructions written in their native language.

They quickly forged a relationship with a Russian doctor, Victoria V. Tsinberg, who sent patients from her Northwest Baltimore office to the couple's new Health-Rite Pharmacy in Pikesville.

But after a little more than a month, say the Kargmans, Dr. Tsinberg stopped sending prescriptions their way, routing them instead to another new "Russian pharmacy" called Five Star.

Health-Rite Pharmacy has filed suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court against Five Star Pharmacy and Tsinberg, alleging their business arrangement interferes with Health-Rite's business and violates Maryland's Antitrust Act.

The suit seeks unspecified damages and is scheduled for trial next September. Tsinberg, Five Star Director Mark Zaydenberg and their lawyers declined requests to comment for this article.

The dispute has created confusion for many elderly Russian immigrants who speak little English and are unsure which "Russian pharmacy" is filling their prescriptions, say the Kargmans.

They're part of a growing community in Northwest Baltimore of VTC more than 6,000 Russian Jews. It's so closely knit that Dimitri Kargman finds himself suing his grandmother's doctor.

Although Dimitri and Olga Kargman came here from the former Soviet Union, where business competition and fair trade were nonexistent in a country of government ownership, they are quite familiar with U.S. capitalism.

Olga Kargman, 26, came to New York from Odessa when she was 7. She earned a degree in business marketing from New York University. Her 32-year-old husband has been in the United States since he was 17 and runs a small construction company.

With two partners in New York and Philadelphia they decided to open the pharmacy that would capitalize on Russian and American interest in Chinese herbs and homeopathy, two alternative schools of medicine. "We see it as a growing market and an American trend," said Olga Kargman.

They also employed licensed pharmacists to sell traditional medicines and stocked the shelves of their brightly lighted store on the 1500 block of Bedford Ave. with vitamins and health foods.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and County Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz attended the store's grand opening. Neighborhood newspapers wrote about their novel "Russian pharmacy." It was the subject of a radio show for Russian Jewish immigrants.

But the Kargmans soon discovered that they were no longer the only "Russian pharmacy" in Baltimore. Five Star opened in May in the office building adjacent to Tsinberg's office. It has no storefront and is in a second-floor office, with a small waiting room that has a few chairs and a window where prescriptions are dispensed.

Although there is no indication that Tsinberg is an owner of the pharmacy, she is listed as the corporation's resident agent, a person who receives formal notices or legal documents on behalf of a corporation.

The lawsuit, filed in July, states Tsinberg, a doctor of internal medicine, markets her services by advertising in the local Russian press and on local Russian-language radio. The suit alleges that she is purposely steering her patients away from Health-Rite and toward Five Star.

Health-Rite customers told the Kargmans that Tsinberg's staff treated them with hostility if they asked for their prescriptions to be faxed to Health-Rite.

"We are trying to build a piece of the dream," said Dimitri Kargman. "She [Tsinberg] is trying to do everything possible to interfere with our relationship with our patients."

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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