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Top Google Executives Approved Illegal Drug Ads 287

Posted by timothy
from the regulations-trump-free-choice dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "PC Magazine reports that the U.S. government used convicted con artist David Whitaker, owner of an online business selling steroids and human growth hormone to U.S. consumers, to help federal agents in a sting operation against Google when he began advertising with Google with advertisements that included the statement 'no prescription needed,' clearly violating U.S. laws. Google's settlement with the U.S. government for $500 million blamed AdWords sales by Canadian pharmacies, who allegedly were selling drugs to U.S. consumers. 'We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago,' Google said then. 'However, it's obvious with hindsight that we shouldn't have allowed these ads on Google in the first place.' Peter Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting, claims that chief executive Larry Page had personal knowledge of the operation, as did Sheryl Sandberg, a Google executive who now is the chief operating officer for Facebook. In 2009 Google started requiring online pharmacy advertisers to be certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practices Sites program and hired an outside company to detect pharmacy advertisers exploiting flaws in the Google's screening systems."
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Top Google Executives Approved Illegal Drug Ads

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  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:17PM (#38830423)

    That's when the American business school ethic takes over. No right or wrong, legal or illegal, no such thing as pride in workmanship or quality; just whatever it takes to make the books look good for the next quarter. And, if it's illegal hope you're not the sorry sucker holding the bag before you get a chance to cash out.

  • by revscat (35618) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:26PM (#38830555) Journal

    I should preface this by saying that I am no Google fan. I think they have made many poor decisions over the past few years, and the GPYW initiative has caused me to switch over to DuckDuckGo full time.

    Having said that...

    Why is it illegal for Canadian drug companies to advertise their goods in the United States? The US has insanely high drug prices, and Canadian imports of those same products are (or could be) beneficial to the lives, health, and finances of who knows how many people. This is an unjust law, and am having an incredibly difficult time finding a justification for it.

    This seems like yet another instance of the pharmaceutical lobby protecting their vast profits from competition.

  • Re:500 million?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilBudMan (588716) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:28PM (#38830571) Journal

    Have to agree. Sting? Google? They could have just told them. If the government wants to steal there money and ours, I would prefer plain old taxes. No speed traps, crazy fines in some cities that will get everyone about once a year, etc. Sometimes things get past the Mexican border too. Why should Google do their job anyhow?

    I know Google has a lot of money, but a $500,000 fine is plain theft. Has the government stopped drugs coming in thru Mexico? Maybe they should be fined for that. It's all silly.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:29PM (#38830585) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, I have worked with to many public business at the C*O level. frankly, you are wrong.
    is that some peoples point of view? yes. But it's not common, and it is not the 'American Business school ethic'

    Did you read the article? it's form a Con-Man with no collaboration, and it reads like a classic tale that would be woven by a pathological liar.
    So, long term Con-Man and liar, no confirmation, any of the alleged specifics are common knowledge, and then the feds do nothing with this information. His interaction with Google certainly doesn't sound like the typical advertiser interactions

    Too Many Red Flags. Let me know when a reputable source confirms it. Until then, I'll choose to ignore the pathological liar.

  • by Bob-taro (996889) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:52PM (#38830885)

    Sorry, I have worked with to many public business at the C*O level. frankly, you are wrong. is that some peoples point of view? yes. But it's not common, and it is not the 'American Business school ethic'

    Did you read the article? it's form a Con-Man with no collaboration, and it reads like a classic tale that would be woven by a pathological liar. So, long term Con-Man and liar, no confirmation, any of the alleged specifics are common knowledge, and then the feds do nothing with this information. His interaction with Google certainly doesn't sound like the typical advertiser interactions

    Too Many Red Flags. Let me know when a reputable source confirms it. Until then, I'll choose to ignore the pathological liar.

    Mod parent up. The whole thing COULD be true, but it's interesting how quick people can be to believe anything that backs up their preconceived notions (e.g. rich executives are evil) and then pile on with "yes, we all know that" sort of comments without even reading, much less questioning, the story.

  • Illegal != Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @01:53PM (#38830907)

    Yet another example highlighting the fact that "illegal" does not necessarily equate to "wrong".

  • by melted (227442) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:04PM (#38831065) Homepage

    How about we instead turn our rightful indignation against Big Pharma and ask why the fuck is it not legal to buy the same drugs from Canada for less? When I moved to the US, I was shocked by how badly US residents are being gouged when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Nowhere else in the world do drugs cost as much as they do in the US. In some places the same exact drugs by the same exact companies are sold at 1/5th to 1/10th the price.

  • by causality (777677) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:09PM (#38831135)

    The same reason it's illegal to import DVDs from Africa to sell in the US. The drug companies find they can sell drugs in the US for a LOT more than they can almost anywhere else, so they do. Allowing imports from other countries would defeat that.

    You see, when they say "globalism" and "global economy" what they mean is that corporations can off-shore to get the cheapest prices available for human labor.

    When humans want to do things the other way around by making an "off-shore" international purchase to get the cheapest prices available for goods, that's a crime and suddenly the government wants to enforce a brand of protectionism.

    It's standard hypocrisy.

  • by coyote_oww (749758) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:11PM (#38831163)

    This issue is not whether you have a prescription or not, but whether you need them. You can know you need drugs without having a prescription.

    In my own case, I am on some pricey immuno-suppressive drugs. One is Prograf, which is a brand name for Tacrolimus. I know I will need this in some quantity for the rest of my life. I am currently well insured, so it's not an issue. However, I would still need Tac if I was unemployed, and I would certainly consider getting it from a reputable non-US pharmacy. The prescription I have for this is issued annually - 90 days + 3 refills, or 30 days +11 refills, typically. Now, if i wanted to get really cheap, i'd stop seeing the doctor, get the lab work done on my own dime (i'd have to pay for it anyhow) and do my own analysis of the results (not rocket science, desired tac-levels for post-transplant are well established, and printed on the lab report. Then I'd buy drugs to fill the need at the lowest cost available internationally.

    Really, once you know your getting accurate dosing and purity, the government doesn't have much additional to offer.

    The idea that pharmacies should be forced to provide drugs cheaply outside the US, and Americans can fund R&D and profit margins is unfair. Those costs should be spread equally amongst all the developed nations of the world, not just the US. So, I am in favor of opening the borders, or imposing some stiff taxes on cost differentials between the US and other countries.

  • Re:500 million?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:15PM (#38831221)

    they were linking to it!

    and if you're been breathing at all during the last few years, you know that if you LINK to things, its the same as DOING those things.

    you know what I'm talking about.

  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:25PM (#38831329) Homepage Journal
    Well, maybe they are, maybe they're not, but of the three articles published in the last 24 hours by Slashdot:
    1. One was an outright falsehood. (The claim Google is forcing all new sign-ups to create Google+ profiles.)
    2. One was misleading, and arguably the truth was positive (spin was "Google is changing their ToS so that everyone has to share their details across all their websites!"), reality was "Google has always shared information across their websites, and the ToS is being standardized and hence made easier to understand.
    3. And then there's this one, which appears to take a negative incident for Google (Google did, indeed, take ads from online pharmacies), and add some serious but unsubstantiated (and dubiously sourced) allegations to it (Billion-dollar-a-year Google's CEOs for some reason deciding, directly, to chase the million dollar market for online pharmacy ads. Does this one even make sense?)
  • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:35PM (#38831467)

    So you don't trust the con man, how about Google itself :

    "Google acknowledged in the settlement that it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers allegedly based in Canada to run advertisements for illicit pharmacy sales targeting U.S. customers."

    Or the prosecutor :

    "Mr. Page, now Google's chief executive, knew about the illicit conduct, said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney for Rhode Island who led the multiagency federal task force that conducted the sting."
    "But the company's ad executives worked with Mr. Whitaker to find a way around Google rules, according to prosecutors and Mr. Whitaker's account."
    "The federal task force, which also included the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigation, was preparing criminal charges against the company and its executives for aiding and abetting criminal activity online, prosecutors said."
    "Suffice to say this was not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own," said Mr. Neronha, the U.S. attorney. "This was corporate decision to engage in this conduct."

    No ? How about the shareholders :

    "Six private shareholder lawsuits have so far been filed against Google's executives and board members, alleging they damaged the company by not taking earlier action against the illegal pharmacy ads."

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:38PM (#38831503)

    Now the drug companies are learning the true cost of not fighting the Canadian government extortionists.

    When did _not_ giving companies a government-granted monopoly become 'extortion'?

    I bet Canada will soon be paying market prices for its drugs.

    How can a price be a 'market price' when it's the result of a government-granted monopoly? If you want people to pay a market price for a drug, then eliminate drug patents.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:42PM (#38831561) Homepage Journal

    Come on all you Ron Paul supporters, let's hear it. We *should* be able to buy Canadian drugs at 1/10 the price of what we're being ripped off in the USA for the same crap.

    And before you bring up safety/prescriptions/handling/lifethreating issues as a factor, consider this: We buy food from China, which has far less controls regarding safety than Canada does.

    That Apple Juice you're buying in Walmart? Madde from Chinese grown Apples. Who knows what those apples were exposed to, what toxins are in the ground the were grown in, how they were handled/processed and what else the factory that makes this juice also makes?

    The Apple Juice you buy in Walmart could be as deadly, or even more deadly than any Canadian Pharmacy or drug "internet purchase".

    The *ONLY* reason that drugs are as heavily regulated as they are in this country is to protect Corporate interests (aka BigPharma). There is NO OTHER reason. Any other excuse you've been given by the talking heads on TV is window dressing.

    And if we had a real free market economy, sure, some people would die, but that's the way free market economies work. Frankly, that's the way this economy works as well, regulated or not.

    Think about how many people die because they are denied health care due to insurance rates, or they can't afford the medication they've been prescribed.

    No matter which way you go, people are going to die, that's just a reality. But to say that you're saving lives by not allowing Canadian Pharmacies to sell in the USA is a complete lie.

  • Rationalization (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MikeMo (521697) on Thursday January 26, 2012 @02:44PM (#38831611)
    I am amazed by the lengths to which people on this site will go to rationalize Google's behavior. It's not the morality of advertising drugs that is at question here, it's the morality of knowingly allowing something which is illegal. If Page really knew (as the GOVERNMENT, not the conman, asserts) that they were accepting ads that explicitly stated "no prescription required" then he knowingly broke the law for profit. Plain and simple.

    Whether it SHOULD be illegal has no bearing on the issue.

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