DOJ Investigating Google Over Rogue Pharmacy Ads


riotADOTAS – Google didn’t much feel like talking about the $500 million charge it listed on a U.S. Securities Exchange Committee filing as being set aside for a settlement with the Justice Department over advertising practices. But The Wall Street Journal got some insiders to squeal: the DOJ investigation is looking into whether Google profited from illegal pharmacies using its self-serve ad system.

These rogue pharmacies, apparently based outside of the U.S., may have been selling prescription medication without a prescription as well as expired or counterfeit drugs.

A $500 million fine could be one of the largest ever doled out by the U.S. government, which doesn’t goof around with drug advertising. That’s why many pharmaceutical firms approach online advertising like stepping on egg shells. Apparently Google attempted a crack down on illegal drug supplies, filing a civil lawsuit against suspected advertisers in September, but the DOJ is looking into whether Google looked the other way as the rogue pharmacies handed over their cash and put up naughty ads.

The U.S. government has become quite vigilant in its crusade against online fraudsters (particularly when the advertisers in question boast false health claims). The Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on “flogs and farticles,” though I question how that’s going as I still see ads for “one trick to a flat stomach” and “work at home exposed!” all over the likes of Huffington Post, and other supposedly liberal news sources. (If the publication doesn’t demand the aristocrats be guillotined before the redistribution of wealth, it’s not left enough for me. Disclosure for stray right wingers: that is a joke.)

I’m most curious about how self-serve online advertising platforms will be affected by this ramped up regulatory diligence. Should such companies be looking at new measures to protect themselves from the government’s wrath?


  1. I think this is a fascinating article because it brings up the question as to who is responsible when an ad is misleading the public. In the best case scenario, a website should have some limits as to what they will put up. If nothing else, certain ads might offend the readers/audience. Most of all, I believe a website could be sullied by misleading or fraudulent advertising. No matter how good the content, I want to know that the site where I am getting my information has some responsibile boundaries.


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