A new novel called "The Karasik Conspiracy" describes a fictional terrorist plot aimed at the pharmaceutical industry.   It is a tale of international intrigue and there is an element of intrigue in the story behind the book. 

The Karasik Conspiracy is a story of Balkan terrorists, a ruthless billionaire and an evil pharmaceutical corporation.   Co-author Kenin Spivak says a real-life controversy gave rise to the book.  Americans have been debating the practice of buying drugs from Canada over the Internet.  Canadian prices are usually lower, but the pharmaceutical industry, and U.S. officials, warn that buying from Internet pharmacies outside the United States can be risky business.

Mr. Spivak says the dispute gave rise to one strand of the plot.

"In the book as published, there are two terrorist cells that at the same time launch a terrorist attack on the United States," he explained.  "One is a group of people originally from the Balkans, and they launch an attack using both Canadian website pharmacies and some other parts of the pharmaceutical drug system.  At the very same time, a fictional pharmaceutical company called PharmCorp, worried about what Americans think about permitting drugs to be imported from Canada, decides also to launch a similar attack."

What results is a fast-paced, if complicated, thriller.  Nearly as interesting, however, is the story behind the book.  Mr. Spivak says the idea came from a real-life pharmaceutical trade association.

"It started when PhRMA, which is the lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry in the United States, went to a publisher, Phoenix Books here in Los Angeles, and asked them to commission a book in which terrorists would launch an attack on the United States using drugs imported from Canada," he said.

A PhRMA spokesman denies the association commissioned a book, telling the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets that a renegade employee commissioned it through a consultant.  He said senior management knew nothing about the arrangement.

The primary author, Julie Chrystyn, invited Mr. Spivak, who is a veteran executive in the entertainment industry, to help edit the book.  After extensive rewriting, he became its co-author. 

The novel, in its final form, is unlikely to please the pharmaceutical industry.  A fictional drug company is one of the major villains.

The writer says the story is fiction, but its premise is real.  He believes the Internet is a risky place to buy drugs because pharmacies that are ostensibly in Canada, where safety rules are strict, could really be located anywhere.  And he says pharmaceuticals could become a terrorist target.

"There is a risk of a terrorist attack using the drug distribution system," he explained.  "And this book, I think, is a fun way, an exciting way, and a terrifying way of seeing the consequences of such an attack."

U.S. authorities still oppose importing drugs from Canada, citing safety concerns.  Brand-name drugs are generally cheaper there, because the Canadian government, like many governments in Europe, sets price controls.  A number of U.S. cities and states have implemented programs to help their residents buy pharmaceuticals from Canada or Europe.  

A national plan to help U.S. seniors purchase drugs went into effect January 1, and one study says the program will reduce the incentive for older Americans, at least, to buy their drugs outside the country.