Pharmacy industry groups warned Google years ago that it should be doing a better job screening ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws.
But Google didn’t respond to their warnings, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this month, an SEC filing revealed that Google had quietly put aside $500 million during the first quarter to prepare for a possible fine from a Department of Justice investigation. Later, the Journal reported that the investigation was related to Google’s practice of accepting ads from online pharmacies who shipped drugs without requiring a prescription, sold controlled substances, and shipped counterfeit drugs.
Today, the Journal published a 2003 letter from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) asking Google to take ads only from pharmacies that Google verified itself. The letter appears to be a response to a Google manager who asked for guidelines.
According to the Journal, Google declined to use a group set up by state regulators in 1999 to weed out illegal pharmacies. Instead, Google used third-party verification services, and in 2006 switched to a company called PharmacyChecker.com. The NABP wrote Google and other search engines in 2008 asking them to replace PharmacyChecker.com because it wasn’t effective enough.
Google finally dropped PharmacyChecker.com in 2010 and went with the suggested program instead.
Google is apparently in talks with prosecutors to settle the case before it reaches court.
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