Friday, November 20, 2009

FDA To Criminal Pharmacy Affiliate Programs: Stop.

Some great news this morning from the Food and Drug Administration.

Yesterday the FDA's office of criminal investigations sent out warning letters to operators of several domains which present websites selling pharmaceuticals illegally. Brian Krebs has the full story including links to the specific letters and the FDA press release, and the full list of warning letters sent by the FDA to several rogue website operators. That is a significant amount of reading, and essentially echos what people like me have been trying to tell the public since at least 2005.

This is definitely a case of "No sh*t, Sherlock", since the FDA was arguably in a position to do this as far back as 2006, but it's better late than never. Letters were sent to 136 website operators, and specifically describe the precise illegal nature of each of the sites, which should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog or follows any ongoing spam-related illegal online pharmacies.

I am also a bit surprised that the main "affiliate program" being called out is, since we all know that the #1 criminal promoter of these bogus websites is Spamit aka Glavmed, who continue to pummel the Internet at large with their criminal websites promoting what we know to be completely bogus and dangerous versions of pharmaceutical products. But it's still good news.

One of the key, KEY quotes from the press release:

The agency issued 22 warning letters to the operators of these Web sites and notified Internet service providers and domain name registrars that the Web sites were selling products in violation of U.S. law. In many cases, because of these violations, Internet service providers and domain name registrars may have grounds to terminate the Web sites and suspend the use of domain names.

That one is pretty significant: if you allow a domain name to be registered, and that domain is then used to promote any of these rogue pharmacy sites, YOU can shut it down - period. I should hope that this means far-off companies such as XIN Net, Ename, Beijing Innovative Link, etc., will finally get the message: you can now be held as criminally responsible as the individuals whose websites you allow to be registered. My colleagues and I have been trying to get this message across to these organizations for at least the past three years. This press release from the FDA adds considerable weight to our communications to these companies.

"The FDA works in close collaboration with our regulatory and law enforcement counterparts in the United States and throughout the world to protect the public," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "Many U.S. consumers are being misled in the hopes of saving money by purchasing prescription drugs over the Internet from illegal pharmacies. Unfortunately, these drugs are often counterfeit, contaminated, or unapproved products, or contain an inconsistent amount of the active ingredient. Taking these drugs can pose a danger to consumers."

Again: no surprise to anyone reading this blog, but great that they put it in black and white so that (hopefully at least) the average consumer can now be made aware of this action.

The individual warning letters do not mince words:

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed your websites [...] and has determined that you are offering products for sale in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act). These products include, but are not limited to "Xanax (Generic)," "Valium (Generic)," "Viagra (Brand)," "Acomplia (Generic)," "Acomplia (Brand)," "Rimonabant," "Herbal Xanax," and "Herbal Viagra." We request that you immediately cease marketing violative products.

These products, are drugs under section 201 (g) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 321 (g), because they are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease and/or because they are intended to affect the structure or function of the body. Your marketing and distribution of these drugs violate various provisions of the Act, as described below:[...]

You can't get more clear than that.

I fully expect to see a large number of questions on support forums related to Glavmed or Spamit, saying things like "but you told me this was perfectly legitimate?!?!" I'm certain the responses should be highly entertaining.

Let's see what the next year or so holds in terms of this statement having any real effectiveness in the fight against organized criminals and the websites they continue to push onto unsuspecting consumers.

SiL / IKS / concerned citizen

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