HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do No Evil: Googling Canadian Drug Imports

It has been a while since the topic of imported inexpensive Canadian drugs was hot, see here. However, one side effect of that trade came back to bite Google today as it was forced to forfeit the AdWords revenue it received related to Google searches for illegally imported prescription drugs. The DoJ press release is here and notes:

[A]s early as 2003, Google was on notice that online Canadian pharmacies were advertising prescription drugs to Google users in the United States through Google’s AdWords advertising program.  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.  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.  Google was also on notice that many pharmacies accepting an online consultation rather than a prescription charged a premium for doing so because individuals seeking to obtain prescription drugs without a valid prescription were willing to pay higher prices for the drugs.

The cost to Google? $500 million, representing "the gross revenue received by Google as a result of Canadian pharmacies advertising through Google’s AdWords program, plus gross revenue made by   Canadian pharmacies from their sales to U.S. consumers." [NPT]

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