The Partnership for Safe Medicines
Weekly UpdateMay 3, 2010
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Rogue Pharmacy Using Social Media

Earlier today, the Guardian's Technology Blog posted a malware roundup to alert readers of scams and spam making their way around the Internet.

Disturbingly, author Chris Arthur found that a known rogue pharmacy has set up shop on Twitter.

The Official Canadian Pharmacy at uses the Twitter handle @canadianshop to boldly display its offerings, including "bestsellers" like erectile dysfunction treatments, prices for each and acceptable payment methods-all accompanied with links to send visitors directly to

LegitScript reviewed the pharmacy in February 2009 and classified it as a rogue online pharmacy-one that:

  1. Violates, appears to violate or encourages violation of federal or state law or regulation;
  2. Does not adhere to accepted standards of medicine and/or pharmacy practice, including standards of safety; and/or
  3. Engages in fraudulent or deceptive business practices.

" is an affiliate of the notorious, Russian-based Internet drug ring called GlavMed," said John Horton, President of LegitScript, the company used by Google to monitor its Internet pharmacy advertisements. "This criminal network consists of thousands of websites-some but not all engage in spam-that sell drugs without a prescription, including fake or unapproved pharmaceutical products. Patients who buy from this website, or the thousands that are like it, risk their own health."

Horton said that social media is increasingly a target, but that it is possible to keep the space clean. "Twitter, Facebook and other social media programs are popular with marketers for the simple reason that they work as a method of reaching Internet users. Although social media websites can't police every page on their website, it's certainly possible to run daily sweeps to identify the fraudulent and bad actors-as a result that improves the overall experience for legitimate users of websites and social networks."

The Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) addressed this very concern in its March remarks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during its call for comments on the promotion of FDA-regulated medical products using the Internet and social media, encouraging the FDA to monitor social media to pinpoint users who are peddling illicit products online.

PSM encouraged the FDA to work with Twitter and other social networking platforms to verify pharmaceutical accounts, much as Twitter has done with its beta verified accounts for well-known individuals and organizations to prevent identity confusion and allow users to obtain information from authentic sources.

New policies and stiffer penalties for those who participate in counterfeit drug schemes must also be addressed, said PSM Vice President Dr. Bryan Liang, MD, PhD, JD.

"We've said before that new policies and legislation must prohibit financial transactions for drug sales of unlicensed pharmacies and create substantive criminal penalties for any party-including websites and search engines-that engage in the illegal sale of contraband or counterfeit drugs," said Liang. "If the FDA needed further evidence that illicit drug sellers were using the Internet and social media to peddle unsafe medical products, I'd say this is it."

One thing is clear: unless we press the issue with regulatory bodies, our elected officials and Internet companies, rogue pharmacies like Canadian-Drugshop will continue to pollute these platforms with incentives for dangerous products.

Top News

US: FDA Makes Recommendations for Supply Chain Security


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today sent a letter to companies and a wide range of other key stakeholders detailing the agency's concern over cargo and warehouse thefts of FDA-regulated products. The products stolen have included prescription and over-the counter medicines, medical devices, and infant formula. The FDA will continue to work closely with manufacturers and wholesalers to find ways to better secure the nation's supply chain, which protects public health. ("FDA Urges Industry to Take Additional Steps to Prevent Cargo Theft," Press Release, April 28, 2010; Read the letter here)

World News

EU: Parliament Approves Measures to Combat Counterfeit Drugs


European Parliament members have overwhelmingly approved plans for strengthening draft EU legislation on potentially fatal counterfeit medicines. In a vote on Monday, members of the environment and public health committee backed a report calling for tougher measures by 51 votes with none against. The report extends the scope of the planned new law to all pharmaceutical sales on the internet. It also recommends an EU logo for approved sites in order to distinguish between legal and illegal 'online pharmacies'. ("MEPs back new move to tackle fake drugs," The Parliament, April 27, 2010; Story here)



West Africa: Counterfeit Drugs Make Resurgence


A massive wave of trafficking counterfeit drugs has resumed in West Africa in defiance of a concerted international effort to dismantle the network. Guinea Bissau and Senegal reports say the manufacture, distribution and consumption of fake drugs had faded for at least three months since several heads of states in the region launched an international action last year. In Senegal, considered the principal hub of the network, police are investigating the origin of a large consignment of confiscated drugs, including paracetamol, efferalgan, and sprochm induxatra. ("Fake drugs back in W. African markets," The Monitor, April 29; 2010; Story here)



Nigeria: NAFDAC Director Pledges Major Reductions in Counterfeit Drugs


The director of Nigeria's National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii, has promised agency to bring down the rate of counterfeit drugs in the country to less than a percent. He discussed the efforts of the agency in tracking down counterfeit manufacturers who import expired drugs into Nigeria from China. Orhii, also disclosed that his team in conjunction with other security agencies recently intercepted seven out of 21 trucks alleged to be carrying over 63 containers of expired and counterfeit drugs. ("NAFDAC Intercepts Trucks of Fake Drugs," Leadership Nigeria, April 28, 2010; Story here)

October 8, 2010 - PSM's Inaugural 2010 Interchange. Washington, D.C.

The Partnership for Safe Medicines invites you to save the date for an intimate conference bringing together patient groups, providers, pharmaceutical company quality experts, enforcement personnel, policymakers, regulatory agency experts and other interested parties to discuss key issues around counterfeit drugs and other unsafe medicines. Link here.

About the Partnership for Safe Medicines
The Partnership for Safe Medicines is a group of organizations and individuals that have policies, procedures, or programs to protect consumers from counterfeit or contraband medicines. For more information, please visit