Companies Join Forces to Protect Consumers from the Prevalent Threat of Illegal Online Pharmacies

May 10, 2013 – WASHINGTON, DC – The Center For Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) will be presenting at next week’s MAC conference in Las Vegas, a gathering of 300 merchant banks and credit card companies, in an attempt to expand understanding of this threat to consumers – illegal online pharmacies selling fake drugs under the mask of legitimate-seeming websites.

Research from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicates that 23% of adult Internet consumers surveyed have bought prescription medicine online. These illegal online pharmacies continue to be growing in numbers and are operating in violation of U.S. law according to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. To combat this issue and protect consumer health, CSIP was founded in 2011 by 11 major corporations including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, E-Nom, GoDaddy, Paypal and Neustar and most recently joined by Facebook. CSIP engages its members to share data about illegal websites, collaborate with law enforcement entities and consumer education.

John Horton, President of LegitScript, the industry’s leading verification service for online pharmacies, has seen the results first-hand. As he explains:

“The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) was created to focus its members on a simple goal: making it harder for bad actors to harm consumers. An industry-wide issue requires industry-wide solutions. When CSIP members show industry leadership by refusing to permit their paid services to be used by rogue Internet pharmacy operators, rogue Internet pharmacies are weakened and can’t profit at the expense of patient safety.”

Here’s a look at some new facts and figures from CSIP and our partners and the progress we’re making to ensure illegal pharmacies don’t harm consumers online:


  • In November 2012, CSIP participated in Operation Pangaea with the FDA and law enforcement bodies and shut down more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites and seized approximately $10.5 million worth of pharmaceuticals worldwide.
  • CSIP supported consumer education campaigns for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s BeSafeRX and the Partnership for Drugfree America’s Medicine Abuse Project, which yielded a total of 41,265,758 social media impressions.
  • According to LegitScript, the number of illegal drug and pharmacy ads on major search engines like Google and Bing [Microsoft] has declined by more than 99.9% percent since 2010. These ads have virtually been eliminated.
  • Google alone has removed more than 3 million ads for illegal pharmacies and has made thousands of referrals to law enforcement about rogue online pharmacies since 2011.
  • Visa and Discover have a long history of working cooperatively with law enforcement officials and both have robust monitoring programs that routinely search the Internet for sites purporting to accept payment by branded cards in exchange for illegal prescription drugs.

CSIP companies, like Google and Microsoft, have made significant progress in the last several years. According to John Horton, “Google and Microsoft are now industry leaders in safety and security on pharmaceutical ads. They have come a long way. Specifically, Google and Microsoft have implemented unprecedentedly comprehensive pharma-related advertising policies. There is zero tolerance for illegal, unsafe or deceptive medical or pharmaceutical advertisements. Other companies, including some of the payment networks, are attacking this issue more aggressively as well.”

The sale and distribution of illegal pharmaceuticals is a complex challenge, and CSIP and its members continue to work effectively with the government and law enforcement to reduce the number of online illegal pharmacies and to promote consumer awareness and education online. The progress that CSIP and its partners have made represents a significant leap forward for the industry and for consumers. But, there’s still a long way to go.

About CSIP:
The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) is a nonprofit organization that works to combat the problem of illegal online pharmacies through education, enforcement and information sharing. CSIP was chartered in 2011 by 11 of the world’s leading Internet and e-commerce companies to help address the growing problem of consumer access to illegitimate pharmaceutical products on the Internet. Find CSIP online at http://safemedsonline.org, on Twitter at @safemedsonline, on facebook, and on Google+ .


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