Search engines 'facilitate illegal prescription drug sales'

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Arlington (VA) - Researchers were able to get prescription drugs, with no prescription required, from Yahoo online ads.

LegitScript.com, an online pharmacy verification service, and KnujOn.com, an Internet compliance company, have released a report analyzing Yahoo's online advertisements for Internet pharmacies. The report indicates that more than 80 percent of Yahoo's Internet pharmacy ads are operating contrary to US federal and state laws.

Researchers were able to buy prescription drugs without a prescription from Yahoo Internet pharmacy advertisements, including of potentially habit-forming medications. In one case, the drugs were imported from India, which is prohibited by US law.

The report also criticizes PharmacyChecker.com, Yahoo's Internet pharmacy verification service. The report's authors say they acquired prescription drugs without a prescription from an Internet pharmacy approved by PharmacyChecker and listed on PharmacyChecker.com. Those drugs were also imported from India.

No prescription required

Dan Pearson, father of Justin Pearson, after whom Minnesota's Internet pharmacy law is named, said "My daily trip to the cemetery to visit my son only reinforces my resolve to address this national travesty. The search engines have said for years that they are taking effective steps to stop no-prescription-required Internet pharmacies from advertising. Until they get serious about this, parents like myself will continue to bury our children."

In a report earlier this month, the authors announced that they had purchased prescription drugs without a prescription, and had been sent counterfeit medications, from bing.com online pharmacy advertisers.

A few days after Microsoft responded that it had manually reviewed its pharmacy ads and removed all offenders, KnujOn announced that it had conducted yet another purchase of addictive prescription drugs from a bing.com advertiser without a valid prescription.

Yahoo's policy requires Internet pharmacy advertisers to be based in the United States or Canada. The report reviewed three Internet pharmacies that were approved as advertisers based on having a Canadian pharmacy license. In all three cases, the Internet pharmacies indicated that the drugs would actually be shipped from places like India, Singapore or Barbados, not Canada.

The report indicates that three national organizations, including the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), and National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, have written to all three search engines over the last year to warn them that they were profiting from ads placed by online pharmacies acting unlawfully.

"We're making this a public issue because it's time for this to stop," KnujOn President Garth Bruen said. "If the search engines continue to knowingly facilitate illegal prescription drug sales, then we'll continue to issue these reports. Our reports stop when the problem is fixed."

"Yahoo needs to require that its Internet pharmacy ads adhere to US laws and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy standards," LegitScript President John Horton said. "These are the same safeguards that govern brick-and-mortar pharmacies used throughout the US everyday. Shouldn't American Internet users be assured of the same safeguards online?"

See also:
Microsoft alleged to profit from illegal pharmacies