State Attorneys General Want Google to Get Tougher on Internet Drugs

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 09:38 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Unlicensed Internet pharmacies continue to endanger the safety of Americans. Google, the dominant search engine, says it does not want to "de­list" these sites because of free speech concerns, The Washington Post reported.

The company has come under renewed pressure from several state attorneys general to take a tougher line against the sale of phony medicines and unlicensed online drug sites.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, wants Google to remove sites that market illegal drugs from its search results.

Since 2010, Google says it has eliminated virtually all ads placed by unlicensed pharmacies and accepts only ads from licensed pharmacies in the United States.

Two lawsuits were filed against the company for its pre-2010 policy on prescription drug ads. During the earlier eight-year period, Google earned hundreds of millions of dollars from unlicensed pharmacies, the Post reported.

Separately, the Obama White House has come under criticism for inviting Google to participate in a December 2010 conference on curbing illegal prescription drug ads while the company was the target of a Justice Department investigation.

The company ultimately changed its policy and forfeited $500 million to federal prosecutors.
Google's unusual willingness to settle and admit wrongdoing was publicly downplayed, according to the Post. The settlement was announced by Peter Neronha, the U.S. attorney of Rhode Island. No ranking Justice Department officials from Washington took part.

Hood said. "I don't think the Department of Justice was allowed to promote it the way they would some other $500 million fine."

Hawaii Attorney General David Louie, also a Democrat, says that Google has special responsibilities because of the dominant role it has. "They don't want to become the content censor. Our view of that is that we're not talking about nuanced stuff. We're urging that kind of approach for things that are low-hanging fruit— counterfeit items, illegal pharmacies— that are very blatant and brazen."

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