Internet Drug Rings & Their 'Killer' Online Pharmacies
Need pills for migraine, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or erectile dysfunction? How about rat poison for that migraine or chalk instead of Viagra?
Rogue online pharmacies ("fake pharma") are one of the worst forms of criminal activities on the Internet. They prey on the sick, hide behind false identities and false certifications, and provide the basis for most of the spam in the world. Worst of all, there is a 50 percent chance the drugs you receive are fake, which can and does kill people.
Sadly, if you simply Google “deaths caused by fake online pharmacies” and set the search for, say, the last month, you will gain around 200,000 results. One harrowing account describes a young woman’s death in the UK due to fake prescription drugs bought online.
The article cited above is interesting for another reason: Ironically, it has attracted clusters of ads from Google. None of the three advertisers listed, which claim to be selling Phentremine or other prescription drugs, is certified.
There is good news: If you visit LegitScript, an online pharmacy market-enforcement service, you can check an online pharmacy against their database of 40,405 online pharmacies. These in turn are checked against standards from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). But also to demonstrate the problem: Of LegitScript’s database, only 351 are approved, 800 are in the process of approval, 39,154 do not meet LegitScript/NABP standards, and most are fake pharma.
Recently, an eye-opening report aptly titled “Rogues and Registrars” was released by LegitScript and the KnujOn project for eliminating online junk mail.
The report details the dangerous trend of fake pharma, pointing out that in reality, these are nothing more than Internet drug rings operating within a highly organized criminal network.
One such example is EvaPharmacy, the largest of the Internet drug rings, a shadowy organization run mainly out of Russia and not in the US or Canada as it claims. The report shows how the gang pretends to be part of a well known drugstore chain; how it displays a forged pharmacy license on its fake Website; sells fake or banned drugs, never requiring a prescription; and illegally imports drugs from places known for manufacturing counterfeit medicines, such as India and the offshore Asian islands.
The fabricated nature of the EvaPharmacy license, and others belonging to suspected rogue Websites, was confirmed by NABP, whose Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) accreditation program is a recognized seal of approval, seen as a pharmacy’s commitment to its patients’ health and safety.
Since March, NABP has been working with Google to ensure only accredited VIPPS Websites are eligible for Google-sponsored search results. (Obviously, from the Google ads cited above, Google has not completed this job.)
Over a dozen Web domain registrars responsible for the domains found to be operating in this blatantly illegal and fraudulent way were contacted by the report’s researchers. Encouragingly, most of them -- e.g., GoDaddy, Directi, and SpiritDomain -- responded favorably and took swift and decisive action to prevent their services from being used for illegal pharmacies.
Sadly, some registrars chose to “turn a blind eye” to the evidence before them, making various claims such as, “Only a court order could give the authority to stop the Website.” The best one: “We are not obliged to comply with laws beyond the country where we are based.” Two of these registrars are based in the US (eNom and Moniker); one is Russian (CentroHost); one is based in Gibraltar (UK2Group); and one is Dutch (Realtime Register).
Despite what some of these registrars may think, very few countries allow an open sale of prescription drugs without a prescription, and fake pharmas do kill innocent people.
Perhaps Google will work a little faster to check its sponsored search results. However, one of the most interesting points to consider is whether the registrars who simply refused to act against the clear evidence presented may be liable for aiding and abetting homicide.