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Google, GoDaddy Help Form Group To Fight Fake Online Pharmacies

Nonprofit on intellectual property health and safety announced at White House summit
Google and GoDaddy are heading up the formation of a nonprofit organization aimed at taking action against illegal online pharmacies. Also on board for the nonprofit are American Express, eNom, MasterCard, Microsoft, Network Solutions, Neustar, PayPal, Visa, and Yahoo.

The announcement of this private, industry-driven group aimed at taking down phony prescription drug peddlers online came during a meeting at the White House yesterday as part of the White House Intellectual Property Health and Safety Forum. Some 36 million Americans -- one in six -- has purchased prescription medication over the Internet without a valid prescription, according to new data released at the summit by The Partnership at Drugfree.org.

Drugs purchased online are often unapproved or fake drugs, so patients could be putting their health and lives at risk. In addition, the number of online pharmacies has been skyrocketing: According to Jeannie Salo, director of global anti-counterfeiting for international government affairs at Eli Lilly, more than 95 percent of Internet organic-search results return websites that sell unapproved or phony medicines without a prescription.

Members of the new nonprofit led by Google and GoDaddy will share information about rogue pharmacies and sites selling drugs illegally, expand a whitelist of legitimate online pharmacies, and fund educational campaigns explaining the dangers of buying drugs online from illicit sources. The group will also provide information to law enforcement and, whem possible, stop payment or shut down the sites.

"The announced collaboration is a huge win for public health, and marks the first time that so many Internet commerce stakeholders have worked together on a comprehensive solution to address the rogue online drug sellers posing as Internet pharmacies," said Libby Baney, an advisor with B&D Consulting, which counsels the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), in a statement.

Mason Cole, vice president of Oversee.net, a domain name service provider, and chair of the registrar stakeholder group at ICANN, says the key is keeping legal judgments out of the equation for domain providers. "We've been working for several months with law enforcement, the White House, and others to examine ways to put rogue pharmacies out of business. We're interested in making sure whatever system is created is effective for clear-cut cases and doesn't demand that domain name service providers make legal judgments about site content," Cole says.

The summit was part of the Obama administration's plan to stop the theft of intellectual property, including the production and sale of phony medicine.

"Those who sell prescription drugs online without a valid prescription are operating illegally, undercutting the laws that were put in place to protect patients, and are thereby endangering the public health," said Victoria Espinel, U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, in a statement. "It is a real wake-up call that so many Americans have engaged in this dangerous behavior."

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