The dangers of online pharmacies and unlicensed drug sellers are well documented. In fact, recent reports released by KnujOn, an internet compliance company, found that 80 to 90 percent of search engine-sponsored advertisements of online drug pharmacies violate federal and state laws, including selling substandard and counterfeit drugs to unsuspecting consumers. To make matters worse, a detailed study of online drug sellers found that 85 percent of web sites offering drugs for sale required no prescription from the patient’s physician—introducing tremendous opportunities for fraud and circumvention of critical physician oversight.
As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in the midst of accepting public remarks on the sale and advertisement of pharmaceutical products online, PSM got in touch with KnujOn co-creator Garth Bruen for a Q&A session about the KnujOn system, search engine advertising and what’s needed from regulatory agencies.
PSM: What led to the creation of KunjOn?
Garth Bruen (GB): We were concerned back in 2003 that the methodologies employed for handling spam would eventually exacerbate the problem, which we’ve seen through the regular increase in spam volume and the expansion of criminal profits. All the money and attention in the spam fight has been on the email itself and not the goal of the email. The goal of spam is a transaction that puts money into the illicit cycle—spam is just the advertisement. The criminal networks don’t care if 99 percent of the population blocks or ignores spam because they make a killing off the one percent that receives it and buys something.
Think about it this way: Upward of 90 percent internet bandwidth is used to route junk email. Even if you have the most amazing filter or firewall that blocks everything, you are still paying (through cable bills and taxes) to have the spam delivered just short of your mailbox. It’s a waste of technology and communications services. The better way is to process every piece of spam for enforcement; figure out what a spammer is targeting; and develop automated procedures to cut off their access to transaction platforms. This is KnujOn: we take spam and convert it into compliance.
While many have written the spam problem off as unsolvable, we believe it completely solvable and continue to demonstrate this.
Stay tuned for the second post in a five-piece series with the Garth Bruen of KnujOn. In the meantime, PSM encourages you to keep up with the FDA’s public hearing on the promotion of FDA-regulated medical products using the internet, November 12-13. The FDA will accept written and electronic comments on this issue until February 28, 2010. For more information, visit the FDA’s hearing notice and follow #fdasm on Twitter.