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Partnership for Safe Medicines Applauds Google’s Updated U.S. Pharmaceutical Advertising Policy

WASHINGTON, DC – Feb. 10, 2010 – The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) today commended Google for its updated policy on U.S. pharmaceutical advertising through its paid search program, AdWords.

Toward the end of the month, Google will refine its advertising model to accept ads only from online pharmacies in the U.S. that are accredited by the National Association Boards of Pharmacy’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program.

The changes will cut out third-party verifiers, leaving VIPPS as Google’s lone online pharmacy accreditation program for drug advertisers in the U.S. While online pharmacies from other countries do pose a threat to consumers purchasing medicines online, PSM acknowledges that the new requirements are a step in the right direction.

“As a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting consumers from counterfeit medicines, we’ve been highly critical of search engines that have permitted illegitimate online pharmacies to advertise fake, substandard and unauthorized medicines,” said Marv Shepherd, PhD, PSM president and director of the Center for Pharmacoeconomic Studies at the University of Texas at Austin's College of Pharmacy. “This is a significant step toward protecting consumers online and thwarting the growing threat of counterfeit drugs.”

PSM Vice President and Executive Director of the Institute of Health Law Studies Bryan Liang, MD, PhD, JD concurred saying, “Last year, we published the first study identifying the dangers associated with online drug sellers and the limited oversight of search engines. In addition, a later, joint study released by an online pharmacy verification service and an internet compliance company found that 80-90 percent of search engine-sponsored advertisements of online pharmacies violated federal and state laws, including the sale of substandard or counterfeit drugs.” Added Dr. Liang: “We’ve long insisted that online pharmacies be licensed through programs like VIPPS, and we are appreciative that Google recognized the risks of these online drug sellers through its new policy.”

Tom Kubic, president of the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and PSM partner, encouraged the other major providers of internet search tools to follow Google's lead. "Clever criminals will quickly adapt to these changes and move to other search engines to peddle their unsafe medicines,” said Kubic. “Only by adopting uniform strict standards on paid advertising can we really protect unsuspecting patients."

PSM also noted the importance of keeping Google’s amended requirements in perspective amid many other unaddressed issues in the counterfeit drug space. “For instance, we need to see new legislation that prohibits financial transactions for drug sales of unlicensed pharmacies and creates criminal penalties for Web sites, search engines and individuals who participate in the sale of contraband or counterfeit drugs,” said Liang. “Our work is far from over.”

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About the Partnerships for Safe Medicines

The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines. To join us in our stand against counterfeit drugs or obtain your own copy of the Principles for Drug Safety doctrine, please visit www.SafeMedicines.org.

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