Google Goes After Unverified Drug Sellers

Google is seeking a court order banning two AdWords sellers from advertising prescription drugs on the site.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. Google alleges that Omar Jackman of Brooklyn and another person, identified only as "Simon," sell prescription drugs via AdWords even though they have not been approved by the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program. Google alleges that this activity violates its contract with marketers, which bans promotion of online pharmaceutical sites that haven't been verified.

The lawsuit also alleges that Jackman, Simon and other unknown defendants attempt to defeat procedures that Google put in place to keep ads for unauthorized drug sellers off the site. For instance, Google says it doesn't allow unverified advertisers to use the names of drugs as keywords, but that the defendants allegedly overcome this automated prohibition by misspelling brand names.

"These rogue advertisers continue to find ways around the technological measures Google has put in place to stop them," the company alleges. "Although Google has created a system to block thousands of prescription-drug-related terms -- including misspellings -- Jackman and other advertisers ... continue to create new misspellings," Google says in its complaint that even though it suspended the AdWords accounts of Jackman, Simon and others, "advertisers frequently create new accounts."

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The company has accused the advertisers of breach of contract and is seeking damages as well as an injunction.

Unauthorized pharmaceutical sites appear to far outnumber legitimate ones, according to a study issued last year by MarkMonitor. The brand protection company reported that only four online pharmacies, out of a total of 2,930 it examined, were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program.

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