A Google Crackdown on Rogue Pharmacies, or Just a Bad Western Movie?

October 1st, 2010

Google (i.e. John Wayne) is roping in the bad advertisers (bandits) once again in the recent crackdown in the online space. If you think this feels like the intro to a John Wayne Wild West movie where the good guy goes after the bad guy through a series of standoffs, you might be right.

Google announced on September 22, 2010 it is going after rogue pharmacies and filed a federal lawsuit against fraudulent pharmacy advertisers that illegally advertise on its’ search engine. The announcement may not be surprising when you consider that Google has been facing exponential growth in the number of advertisers claiming to be a source to sell online drugs. Plus there are additional regulations coming down on the healthcare industry from the FDA, which impose further restrictions on advertising.

Google does have safeguards in place to prevent the promotion or misuse of illegal pharmaceutical products. However, even with these safeguards in place there are still a small percentage of pharmacy ads from rogue pharmaceutical companies that continue to appear on Google.  So the showdown continues….

2010: the Year the West was Won?

The FDA has also been involved in combating “fake” pharmacies and advises consumers to alert their doctor and pharmacists when they encounter non-approved FDA drugs.  According to the FDA, “this practice undermines safeguards of direct medical supervision and a physical evaluation performed by a licensed health professional,” says Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., medical officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Policy, Planning and Legislation.  While the FDA has come down on drug companies for advertising, the agency is trying to maintain the regulated advertising practices so consumers know when they read or view drug information in the online space it is 100% accurate and safe.

Google, along with other online spaces, is under a microscope from not only the government but legitimate advertisers. This latest move from Google will hopefully deter rogue pharmacies from continuing to illegally advertise online. Will this be a happy ending like in most Western movies, or is this only the beginning on this frontier?

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