San Francisco-based MarkMonitor recently released the Summer 2007 Brandjacking Index, reporting that online scammers increasingly abuse the top-ranked brands and endanger consumers by selling questionable prescription drugs through dubious online pharmacies.
In the case of prescription drug sites that sell the most popular brands, the report showed that the majority operate without proper credentials and lack even the most basic e-commerce security features--risking customers' health and putting their personal information at risk.
The study, MarkMonitor's second quarterly survey, made some startling discoveries: Most of the sites advertised are unlikely to be the real thing--and in many cases, operators say the sites are run in the U.S. or Canada, but in fact the businesses are traced to countries like China, Russia or India.
MarkMonitor officials suggest that pharma companies should take responsibility for protecting their brands online in order to preserve the integrity of their brands, their reputations, revenues and customers.
"Caveat emptor on the part of consumers is not a sufficient response to the depredations of online scammers and thieves," says Irfan Salim, MarkMonitor president, in a release. "The data show brandjackers are profoundly exploiting brands, using increasingly sophisticated tactics, and, in the case of the pharmaceutical industry, posing an outright danger to consumers through questionable practices that indicate counterfeiting and gray markets."
The quarterly MarkMonitor Brandjacking Index is an independent report that measures the effect of online threats to brands. In addition to tracking 30 leading brands, the summer report includes a research focus on online abuses of pharmaceutical brands, as well as an investigation of the counterfeit/gray market for popular prescription drugs.
The report's drug and online channel abuse data for the online pharmaceutical market is based on six leading drug brands: three of the highest-ranking drug products, according to the "Top 200 Brands for 2006 by U.S. Sales" study by Drugs.com, and three of the most frequently searched drug products online.
MarkMonitor examined the contents of billions of Web pages and 60 million spam e-mails advertising six popular drugs captured over a four-week period in June. The company won't name the drugs, but will say they included well-known brands of widely sold drugs for erectile dysfunction.
Of the 3,160 online pharmacies studied, only four are accredited as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites--the industry credential that assures consumers of legitimate online pharmacy operations. And 10% of the online pharmacies studied clearly state no prescription is required to purchase the drugs.
One-third of the online pharmacies in the study generate enough traffic to merit a ranking by Alexa.com, which measures Web traffic. Each of these sites sees an average of 32,000 visitors daily. Using industry statistics for traffic conversion and average order sizes, MarkMonitor estimates that this traffic converts to $4 billion in annual sales for the six drug brands studied.