May 27th, 2011

More Net giants deal in shady drug ads


Microsoft, Yahoo, and InterActiveCorp have accepted advertisements for overseas pharmacies that sell drugs to U.S. customers without requiring prescriptions, a practice that made Google the target of a federal criminal probe, CNET has learned.

An offshore pharmacy called, which advertised on Yahoo and Microsoft’s Web site this week and appears to be based in Vietnam, boasts that it ships pills “from our India facility” in unmarked packages designed to clear U.S. Customs without raising suspicions. “Nobody will know what is inside the package,” the Web site says.

Another, the Czech Republic-based, places paid listings on a U.S. product search engine operated by IAC. IAC gets paid by every time a user clicks on one of its listings for drugs including Cialis, used to treat erectile dysfunction, on its search site.

Google has set aside $500 million to potentially resolve an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into allegations it made millions by accepting ads from online pharmacies that don’t require prescriptions in violation of U.S. laws, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month. (See related CNET coverage.)

Hundreds of offshore pharmacies sell prescription drugs, many legitimate and some counterfeit. Ones in Canada or the U.K. operate under similar laws as in the United States, meaning they tend to require a doctor’s prescription. (Consumer Reports notes those options can be “less expensive” than U.S. sites for brand name medications.) Others, especially those in eastern Europe or Asia, typically don’t ask for prescriptions.

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