The partnership looked like a prescription for success. Bellevue-based drugstore.com, the largest online pharmacy, launched a new section...

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The partnership looked like a prescription for success.

Bellevue-based drugstore.com, the largest online pharmacy, launched a new section of its Web site in October 2003 devoted to alternative-health guru Dr. Andrew Weil and his herbal medicines.

Visitors to drugstore.com could click the “Dr. Weil Recommends” link to learn about herbal remedies and purchase health and wellness products carrying Weil’s endorsement.

Under their contract, drugstore.com had agreed to pay Weil $14 million over five years to be his exclusive online distributor through its own Web site and Weil’s. In return, the Arizona physician and author agreed to promote his partner.

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But the relationship has fallen apart, drugstore.com said. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 26 in U.S. District Court in Denver, the company said it has received little from Weil in return for $4.5 million it has paid him so far.

“Weil essentially has failed to perform any of his marketing obligations under the agreement,” the company said. “Weil’s marketing and promotion … was the primary reason that drugstore.com entered into the agreement.

“His failure to fulfill his contractual obligations in this regard has resulted in greatly reduced traffic … and thus, reduced revenue, to drugstore.com.”

Andrew Weil

Background: An internationally known expert on medicinal , mind-body interactions and integrative medicine, which includes alternative and traditional therapies.

Books: Author of eight, including “Spontaneous Healing,” “Eight Weeks to Optimum Health” and “Eating Well for Optimum Health.”

Employment: A clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of Arizona’s Health Sciences Center in Tucson, where he also is founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine.

Education: Medical degree and bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard University.

Other: A frequent television talk-show guest.

Web site: www.drweil.com

The Denver Post

Despite this, drugstore.com said, Weil continues to demand monthly honorarium and quarterly royalty payments under the contract. The suit names him and his company, Weil Lifestyle, as defendants.

A Weil Lifestyle representative said last week the company is trying to resolve the issue with drugstore.com out of court.

“We’re still hoping to come to a mutual agreement and go forward,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Pfahler. “We are talking to them. They’ve been an important partner for a long time, and we hope to work this out.” She would not comment on specific allegations.

Meanwhile, drugstore.com attorney Alesia Pinney called the lawsuit “a measure of last resort … necessary to protect our business interests and resolve this situation.”

The link to Weil’s page at drugstore.com remains active, and the company continues to promote and sell Weil’s custom vitamin line at his Web site, Pinney said.

Greg French, a spokesman for drugstore.com, said the suit was filed in Denver because it is a “neutral location.”