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Crime doesn’t pay; but advertising crime does

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — The U.S. Department of Justice may have once and for all exposed the man behind the curtain, revealing many online Canadian pharmacies for what they really are: drug pushers taking advantage of Americans in search of cheaper health care. And in doing so, the Justice Department may be uncovering a bigger issue: the creeping 15% of counterfeits worldwide that gradually are cracking the U.S. drug distribution system.

(THE NEWS: Report: Google co-founder knew about illegal pharmacy ads. For the full story, click here)

Not only did Google know full well that those illegal pharmacy ads promoting generic blue pills sans prescription likely were for counterfeit drugs, the company provided customer support to some of these Canadian online pharmacy advertisers to assist them in placing and optimizing their AdWords advertisements, and in improving the effectiveness of their websites from 2003 straight through to 2009, according to a Justice Department press release.

And it appeared they followed the same line of thinking that many Americans did who were in search of a less expensive way to pay for their medicines —  if it’s coming out of Canada, it’s gotta be safe, ay? "Although Google took steps to block pharmacies in countries other than Canada from advertising in the U.S. through AdWords, they continued to allow Canadian pharmacy advertisers to target consumers in the United States," the Justice Department stated. "Google was aware that U.S. consumers were making online purchases of prescription drugs from these Canadian online pharmacies, and that many of the pharmacies distributed prescription drugs, including controlled prescription drugs, based on an online consultation rather than a valid prescription from a treating medical practitioner."

According to the cover story in the Aug. 29 issue of Drug Store News, global drug counterfeiting is growing at 12% to 16% a year, and in 2010 generated as much as $75 billion in worldwide revenues.

The Food and Drug Administration has estimated the number of drug products made outside the United States but consumed domestically doubled from 2001 to 2008. And that may be a conservative estimate. Judging from the record half-billion forfeiture Google made to settle this issue, crime might not pay but advertising for those criminals certainly does. Because a good portion of the $500 million Google paid represented proceeds from those illegal Canadian pharmacy ads.

In a recent analysis of 8,000 rogue websites, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy concluded that 96% of them were out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws, and 85% didn’t require a valid prescription.


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Drug Store News is closed on Labor Day

BY DSN STAFF

The offices of Drug Store News will be closed Monday, Sept. 3, in observance of Labor Day, and the Monday edition of DSN A.M. will not be published. We wish you a happy and safe holiday weekend!

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California bans sale of dextromethorphan to minors

BY Michael Johnsen

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California on Wednesday banned the sale of dextromethorphan to minors, becoming the first state to pass such legislation.

The bill enjoyed the support of industry leaders, including the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “We take very seriously our obligation to educate and raise awareness about cough medicine abuse among teens,” CHPApresident and CEO Scott Melville said. “This unprecedented action by California lawmakers will help address medicine abuse and sets a high standard that we would ultimately like to see enacted nationwide.”

Dextromethorphan is a safe and effective ingredient found in more than 100 over-the-counter cough-cold products; however, some teens abuse large amounts of cough medicine containing dextromethorphan — sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose — to get high.

Aside from calling for a national age restriction on DXM-containing medicines, CHPA has been engaged in educational efforts to curb teen cough medicine abuse for a number of years, and introduced an educational icon on the packaging of DXM-containing cough medicines to alert parents to the potential for abuse. In 2009, CHPA launched StopMedicineAbuse.org to engage parents and community leaders in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse. Additionally, CHPA and its members are involved in a multi-pronged effort to curb the abuse of OTC cough medicines containing DXM with the help of a host of partners, including parent groups, education associations, health professional societies, law enforcement, the retail community and pharmacists.

For more information on efforts to raise awareness, visit StopMedicineAbuse.org.

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