I'm giving Google the benefit of the doubt on settlement of 'rogue pharmacy' ads complaint

Looks like Google is preparing to pay up to $500 million to settle charges it accepted ads from “rogue” online pharmacies. From what I know of Google, they try very hard to keep this kind of junk off of AdWords. It’s not uncommon for Google to go too far, and keep legitimate sites from participating in AdWords for fear that they are rogue. I experienced this firsthand when I experimented with displaying Google AdWords on the RSS feed for the Health Business Blog, which is distributed through Google’s Feedburner. After a couple days I was booted out of the program for supposed suspicious activity and my appeal was rejected with no explanation. I’m just guessing that it had something to do with the fact that I talk about pharmaceuticals on the blog, but I don’t know for sure.

More than a year ago I ran a post from Brian Bujdos about Google’s attempts to crack down on just the sort of activity they seem to be settling over. I’m rerunning it here:

Received this interesting tip from medical writer Brian Bujdos:

U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies may see a subtle spike in revenue due to Google’s revised policies that no longer allow Canadian pharmacies, as well as many “rogue” pharmacies to advertise on Google through AdWords. Now, only VIPPS-certified pharmacies (as selected by the National Association of Pharmacy Boards) can advertise on Google. To date, there are only 19 such pharmacies/companies, including Walgreens and Drugstore.com.

As you may know, AdWords allows any eligible party to purchase key words, and every time that a Google user types in those key words in their search, that party is charged X amount of money to have their paid link appear above, or to the right of, the regular/unpaid search listings.

There are two schools of thought as to why Google is making this change. The first is that the big pharma manufacturers and Google got together and tried to snuff out the “little-guy” online pharmacies. Other people believe that pressure from some mixture of associations, organizations and the government led to the change in Google’s policies – an effort based primarily on “cleaning up” the online pharmacy arena that includes pharmacies that dispense non-FDA approved, potentially harmful medications through sometimes unscrupulous methods.

Either way, U.S. consumers who use Google search are now forced to buy brand-name or generic medications manufactured by U.S. pharmaceutical companies. The cheaper medications from Canada and other countries are no longer an option on Google. Other search engines may follow suit. For the complete story, check out the PharmacyChecker blog entry on AccessRx.com.

May 13, 2011

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