Take Action: Protect Patients from Online Scams With Domain Name Reform
Re-open access to WHOIS contact information; require that domain name sellers lock and suspend suspicious websites
These companies also maintain contact information for registered domain names in a database called WHOIS. Until 2018, investigators used WHOIS to track down cybercriminals, but in the last two years access to WHOIS has been radically limited in response to EU privacy laws and other policy changes. The result is that authorities cannot find and prosecute those selling fraudulent products on websites.
At the end of February 2020, Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) has introduced HR875, a resolution aimed at safeguarding access to WHOIS information for law enforcement and the public. HR875 states that “domain name registration information, referred to as ‘WHOIS’ information, is critical to the protection of the United States national and economic security, intellectual property rights enforcement, cybersecurity, as well as the health, safety, and privacy of its citizens, and should remain readily accessible.”
What you can do:
On May 8, 2020, The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) wrote Congressional leaders in the House and Senate urging them to take extra measures in the next health and stimulus package to protect the American public from online COVID-19 scams. PSM asked that they require domain name sellers to suspend and lock websites that facilitate COVID-19 and other health fraud, and re-open registration information so that law enforcement can pursue criminals using websites to take advantage of the public.
Lend your voice to this campaign. Share our one-pager about domain name reform to help others understand why this is important. TEXT STOPSCAM to 52886 to send a letter to your members of Congress, or submit your letter here.
Background / resources
- Our May 6, 2020 #covidscams episode examines this issue
- Read our short explanation about domain name reform
- Read letters to Congressional leadership and federal agencies:
- Representative Robert Latta of Ohio to the Department of Justice, FBI and DEA (June 24, 2020) Rep. Latta also sent letters to several additional agencies.
- PSM's Statement on the New Pilot Program From NTIA and FDA (June 12, 2020)
Stories about counterfeit drugs and online crime
On July 15, 2020, H.R. 5663, the Safeguarding Therapeutics Act, was marked up and passed favorably out of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.
WHOIS data is searchable registrar information available for all websites on the Internet. It has long been used to trace criminal websites that host counterfeit and illicit drug sales, human trafficking, child pornography, and illicit and copyrighted content, as well as the websites of spammers, denial-of-services and phishing attackers, and other fraudsters.
Planet Drugs Direct, an online pharmacy based in Winnipeg, Canada, has announced a data breach. Hackers broke into their servers, exposing customers’ names, medical details, and contact and banking information. Legitscript is unequivocal in calling Planet Drugs Direct a “Rogue Internet Pharmacy,” their worst rating for online pharmacies, accusing them of violating state and federal laws.
On August 21, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer announced two separate cases had resulted in charges. In the first, criminal charges have been filed against eight people for allegedly importing more than 100,000 units of non-FDA approved pharmaceuticals, and selling them in the local area on the street in front of local businesses. In a second case, Feuer’s office seized a website offering illegal, misbranded, and counterfeit medications for sale online.
According to the Department of the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, “The Goldpharma network illustrates the sophisticated tactics drug traffickers and money launderers use to capitalize on the Internet and online pharmacy sites to sell highly addictive illicit narcotics around the world.”
As a licensed pharmacist, I’m all too familiar with patients’ difficulties getting medications they need and their physician has prescribed. As baby boomers age, pharmacists see more patients at our counters unable to obtain needed treatments for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. This issue is now being acknowledged and a healthy debate has begun over possible solutions. But one idea policymakers shouldn’t pursue is opening up our country’s secure drug supply to medicines coming from outside our borders.
A 2017 legal review conducted by Camille Guerra and Dr. Timothy K. Mackey predates the CanadaDrugs prosecution, however it clearly illustrates the challenges faced by courts in effectively prosecuting illicit online pharmacies
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has just released their Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program Progress Report for February 2018. NABP has conducted an annual survey of Internet drug outlets for the last nine years, and this year it is finding that fake online pharmacies are rushing to get on the fentanyl bandwagon.
Four years after pleading guilty in 2013, a Pennsylvania pharmacist has been sentenced to 6 months of home detention and three years probation after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to smuggle foreign drugs in the United States and money laundering.
Quesada was originally indicted in October 2015. He allegedly used his websites to sell medication to unsuspecting U.S. patients that were unaware they were buying misbranded and counterfeit prescription drugs manufactured in India.