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


Patients who search for medicine online often end up on fake online pharmacy websites because 95% of online pharmacies are unsafe.  These companies buy the names of their websites from domain name sellers. Hisorically, many of domain name sellers have let illicit businesses continue to use their domain names, even when the name implies illegal activity, violates terms of use, or sells opioids or COVID-19 “cures.” This puts lives at risk, especially in a public health emergency when millions are relying on the internet for healthcare information, products, and services.

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.

Current Status:

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


Stories about counterfeit drugs and online crime

How Internet Search Engines Support Illegal Online Drug Sales

May 7, 2009

Did you know that Internet search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, claim to verify online pharmacies through PharmacyChecker.com? But what good does it do? This site provides little to no security about the legitimacy of Internet drug sellers. Rogue online pharmacies continue to profit from the sale of counterfeit drugs, and at the same time Internet search engines profit from the advertisements on these non-verified pharmacies’ Web sites. Even more alarming is that Internet search engines are in no way held accountable for hosting and profiting off “online pharmacies” who distribute counterfeit drugs.

Drug Importation: Small Savings at a Large Cost

April 2, 2009

Supporters of drug importation like to cite the statistic that if the United States were to permit drug importation, it would reduce total drug spending by $40 billion over 10 years. This figure is from the 2004 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issue brief on drug importation.

Limiting Illegal Online Pharmacies Through International Cooperation

March 26, 2009

A recent U.S. study revealed that of 365 online pharmacies, only two were legitimate. So how can we realistically address this problem?

Counterfeit Drug Sellers – Small Penalties for Big-Time Offenses

March 12, 2009

The sale of counterfeit prescription drugs is neither harmless nor insignificant. Today, the illicit sale of counterfeit prescription drugs is outpacing the sale of street drugs as many dealers are finding it to be “more profitable” and “less risky.” Counterfeit prescription drugs and street drugs both endanger lives, yet, counterfeit drug sellers face significantly less penalties while making much more money (as much as 2,000 times the profit of crack or heroin). This is a tremendous public health concern around the world and on our domestic front.

The Real Impact of IMPACT

February 27, 2009

Counterfeit drugs are a global problem that requires an international solution. In fact, an international cooperative effort is already underway with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce (IMPACT).

Protecting Yourself & Your Family Chinese Partnership for Safe Medicines

December 4, 2008

患者和供应商需要警惕和意识到与网上药店及伪劣药品相关的现实风险。您需要了解伪劣药品,以便防范、检测伪劣药品并向相关机构报告。这样,您能够尽量减少买到伪劣药品的风险,还能够向州食品与药品管理局及其他打假机构报告相关案例,对伪劣药品进行回击。 安全药品 安全药品检查清单是 Partnership for Safe Medicines 提供的一体化培训工具,可通过多种具体途径防范、检测伪劣药品并向相关机构报告。请随意打印或散发。单击图片获得一份副本。 培训指南 州食品与药品管理局 。州食品与药品管理局提供多种材料,指导您防范、检测伪劣药品并向相关机构报告。重要资源包括: 伪劣药品问答、消费者培训材料、不宜从网上购买的药品、突击检查情况更新、正品与伪劣药品图片对比,以及更多信息。   全国消费者联盟。全国消费者联盟 (NCL) 为消费者提供方便的指南,协助消费者识别伪劣药品并向 fraud.org 报告。

Protecting Yourself & Your Family Partnership for Safe Medicines

December 2, 2008

Protecting Yourself & Your Family Patients and providers need to be on alert and aware of the real risks associated with online pharmacies and counterfeit medicines. Learn about counterfeit medicines in order to avoid, detect, and report them. You can minimize your risk of getting a counterfeit medicine, and you can also fight back by reporting these cases to the…

International Cooperation Halts Counterfeit Drug Distribution Via Online Pharmacies

November 21, 2008

Bryan A. Liang, MD, PhD, JD

International cooperation is essential to curbing the widespread illicit sale of substandard, unapproved and counterfeit drugs.  Another essential step is shutting down rogue online pharmacies.

Shabby Standards

July 25, 2008

Bryan A.  Liang, MD, PhD, JD 

Earlier this week, I talked about India's opposition to IMPACT's proposed definition of a counterfeit medicine.  Indian "experts" claimed it would hurt their generic drug industry's exports, and I asked just who these "experts" were protecting if the IMPACT's focus was only non-legitimate producers.  

Pharmacies suspected as Internet pill mills

May 25, 2006

Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday raided two area pharmacies suspected of dispensing drugs based on illegal prescriptions obtained over the Internet. Woody Pharmacy in Mooresville and Woody Pharmacy-Waterside in Denver were closed by the N.C. Board of Pharmacy, and licenses of four pharmacists were suspended. KAREN GARLOCH24…

Tell Congress to kick COVID-19 scammers off the Internet!

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