PSM Calls on Top Online Ad Sellers to Refuse Ads from Rogue Online Pharmacies

Image for feature story Washington, D.C. (June 8, 2011) – Rogue online pharmacies are increasingly peddling their wares to unsuspecting Americans through online advertising and social networks, putting the health of Americans at risk. For this reason, the Partnership for Safe Medicines, a non-profit dedicated to curbing counterfeit drugs, today sent letters to 10 of the top 15 online advertising networks as defined by comScore’s April Ad Network Reach Ratings, urging them to adopt and post policies that prohibit ads from online pharmacies unless they are certified by the National Association of the Boards of Pharmacy’s (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) program.

“America has one of the safest drug supplies in the world, yet these rogue online pharmacies are going outside the system to make a quick buck and harm – or even kill – Americans in the process,” said PSM Vice President  Bryan A. Liang, MD, PhD, JD.  “They are using online advertising, email spam and now social networks to market their dangerous and fake drugs to consumers, and we are calling on online ad sellers follow the best practices set by Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL, and Ask and refuse to sell advertising to them.”

PSM has been fighting for more than a decade to curb the counterfeit drug epidemic, and rogue online sellers are one of the largest obstacles. Recent news about Google’s possible settlement with the Department of Justice regarding their online advertising practices relating to online pharmacies has helped put this issue in the spotlight, but they are just one of many online ad networks. In fact, each of the top 15 online ad platforms reach at least 68 percent of all Americans monthly (See comScore April 2011 PDF report).

NABP’s VIPPS certification is the established industry best practice for determining the legitimacy of an online pharmacy. VIPPS certification requires an Internet pharmacy to comply with the licensing and survey requirements of its state and each state to which it dispenses pharmaceuticals. VIPPS-accredited pharmacies meet nationally endorsed standards of pharmacy practice, and they demonstrate compliance with standards of privacy and authentication and security of prescriptions, adhere to quality assurance policy, and provide meaningful consultation between patients and pharmacists.

Out of the top 15 online ad networks, 10 of them did not have publicly stated policies relating to rogue online pharmacies. PSM sent letters to each urging them to require VIPPS certification from any online pharmacy that wishes to advertise, and restrict those pharmacies to advertising only in the jurisdictions in which they are accredited. Those 10 online ad networks are:

  • shareThis
  • Specific Media
  • Turn Media Platform
  • ValueClick Networks (NASDAQ: VCLK)
  • 24/7 Real Media
  • AdBrite
  • Vibrant Media
  • Collective
  • Tribal Fusion

“Working with these ad networks to shore up their policies for online pharmacy advertising, we can begin to stem the tide of counterfeit drugs that are harming Americans. Let’s stop making it easy for the criminals who operate rogue online pharmacies to market to consumers,” continued Dr. Liang. “We look forward to hearing from these companies that they are taking action to protect Americans.”


About PSM:

Comprised of more than 60 non-profit organizations, the Partnership for Safe Medicines is a public health group committed to the safety of prescription medicines and protecting consumers against counterfeit, substandard or otherwise unsafe medicines.  PSM can be found on Facebook (, Twitter (@safemedicines), and the web at


Media Contact:

Teresa Schofield


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