The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) strongly believes that that no one should be able to purchase prescription drugs, including controlled substances, over the Internet without a valid prescription and physician oversight. Last year we sent every member of Congress a postcard that illustrated this face and earlier this year, my colleague Dr. Bryan Liang published a paper in the American Journal of Law & Medicine that highlights how Internet search engines support illegal online drug sales and identified three key ways we can stop “online pharmacies” from peddling their dangerous wares in cyberspace.

Marvin D. Shepherd, PhDShepherd (sm)

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) strongly believes that that no one should be able to purchase prescription drugs, including controlled substances, over the Internet without a valid prescription and physician oversight. Last year we sent every member of Congress a postcard that illustrated this fact and earlier this year, my colleague Dr. Bryan Liang published a paper in the American Journal of Law & Medicine that highlights how Internet search engines support illegal online drug sales and identified three key ways we can stop “online pharmacies” from peddling their dangerous wares in cyberspace.

When Microsoft launched its new search engine, Bing.com, earlier this year, we had hoped they would use this opportunity to address this serious problem. But as the new report from LegitScript and KnujOn demonstrates, it is business as usual. Highlights of the No Prescription Required: Bing.com Prescription Drug Ads report includes:

  • Of the prescription drug and online pharmacy advertisements sponsored by Microsoft reviewed in the report, 89.7 percent led to “rogue” online pharmacies that do not require a prescription for prescription drugs, which is a requirement in many countries such as the United States, or are otherwise acting unlawfully or fraudulently.
  • Despite Microsoft’s stated policy of only sponsoring online pharmacies that supply drugs from the United States or Canada, beginning by clicking on one of Microsoft’s advertisers, the authors received prescription drugs, without a prescription, from India. A test revealed that they were counterfeit drugs.
  • Most of the prescription drug advertisements sponsored by Microsoft that were reviewed for the report did not require a prescription for the sale of prescription drugs, including addictive medicines and controlled substances.
  • Some ads were displayed for a legitimate U.S.-based online pharmacy, but directed Internet users to a completely different, illegal online pharmacy Web site.
  • Some rogue online pharmacies sponsored by Microsoft are members of “affiliate pharmacy networks” linked to Russian organized crime that operate thousands of fake Internet pharmacies.

As the problem of counterfeit drugs continues to grow across the globe, especially through online pharmacies, steps must be taken in order to limit their distribution and sale. The PSM believes that in order to combat this problem, lawmakers need to focus on establishing penalties for Internet search engines, such as Bing, Google and Yahoo, which advertise these illegal online pharmacies Limiting their ability to advertise is an integral step towards curbing this illegal and dangerous trade. For more information on the dangers of substandard or counterfeit drugs, visit www.safemedicines.org.