This is part two of an interview with Garth Bruen, the co-founder of KnujOn, an internet compliance company, on the KnujOn system, search engine advertising and what’s needed from regulatory agencies to protect consumers from counterfeit medical products advertised online. Read part one of our interview.
PSM: Have you noticed an uptick in the number of Web users receiving or reporting spam emails selling counterfeit drugs? Any other trends of note in terms of pharmaceutical advertising?
GB: Yes. We estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the entire internet abuse problem is related to the promotion and traffic of illicit pharmaceuticals. The problem includes: spam, viruses, bot-networks, web vandalism, domain hijacks, intrusions, domain name system (DNS) poisoning, registration fraud, registrar malfeasance, WHOIS inaccuracy, electronic money laundering and a host of other issues. There are many illicit products and services being sold through spam but rogue pharmacies are the biggest chunk of the problem. Drug money drives internet crime and existing internet companies are enabling it.
As for trends, we see service to the traffickers growing as a separate business. For example, we have found various criminal entities who are not directly involved in the drug trafficking or marketing, but rather selling services to those who do: web site hosting and bulk domain registration, transaction processing, providing intelligence on doctors who may be willing to write illicit prescriptions—these folks are mercenaries and they see opportunity.
Stay tuned for part three of this five-piece series with 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. Written and electronic comments on this issue will be allowed until February 28, 2010. For more information, visit the FDA’s hearing notice and follow #fdasm on Twitter.