Almost 90 percent of sponsored links advertising prescription drugs on Microsoft’s new Bing search engine are violating US federal and state laws, according to a new report. The report, from KnujOn, an antispam company, and LegitScript, which offers a service that verifies the legitimacy of particular online pharmacies, will be the first in a series about US companies that profit from rogue pharmaceutical sites.
Some 89.7 percent of the pharmacies paying for ads on Bing are fraudulent or engaged in illegal activity.
Microsoft, as well as other search companies such as Yahoo and Google, require pharmacy sites that pay for advertising to be verified by a company called PharmacyChecker, a competitor of LegitScript.
The report highlights 10 notable pharmacy sites, some of which are believed to be connected with Russian criminal gangs. Some websites send medication to patients without a prescription or ship drugs from overseas, which is illegal under US law.
“Auction rates can be driven artificially higher if rogue Internet pharmacies selling counterfeit or unapproved prescription drugs are allowed to participate in search engine ad programs,” the report said. “It is generally well-accepted that corporations like Microsoft have a responsibility – certainly a moral one, and probably a legal one – not to knowingly facilitate, much less profit from, activities that are dangerous, deceptive or unlawful.”
The conclusions of KnujOn and LegitScript were based on an analysis of Microsoft’s paid search results starting in June 2008, when Microsoft’s search engine was Live Search. The company replaced Live Search with Bing in late May of this year.
Searches on Bing.com turned up paid results from sites such as Choice-Rx.com, which offers drugs that purportedly come from the Seychelles or India. The Web site’s payment processing goes through Panama, which is linked to a Russian company, the report said.
Commenting on the report, a Microsoft spokesperson said: “We take these claims very seriously and are currently investigating this issue.”