Advertising giant and search engine default Google has agreed to forfeit $500 million in proceeds it received from allowing Canadian pharmacies to illegally target American consumers for prescription drugs, the Justice Department announced.

“The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable companies who in their bid for profits violate federal law and put at risk the health and safety of American consumers,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, in a statement. “This settlement ensures that Google will reform its improper advertising practices with regard to these pharmacies while paying one of the largest financial forfeiture penalties in history.”

Google had sold the ads through its AdWords network.

The news was announced at press conference Wednesday morning in Providence.

As a general rule, the shipment of prescription drugs from foreign pharmacies to people inside the United States violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and in the case of controlled prescription drugs, the Controlled Substances Act, according to federal officials.

According to the statement, Google knew as early as 2003 that it was usually illegal for its Canadian pharmacy advertisers to ship drugs to the US.

Besides the patent illegality of it, federal regulators obviously take no steps to verify the legitimacy or chemical makeup of foreign drugs.

“This investigation is about the patently unsafe, unlawful, importation of prescription drugs by Canadian on-line pharmacies, with Google’s knowledge and assistance, into the United States, directly to U.S. consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha. “It is about taking a significant step forward in limiting the ability of rogue on-line pharmacies from reaching U.S. consumers, by compelling Google to change its behavior. It is about holding Google responsible for its conduct by imposing a $500 million forfeiture, the kind of forfeiture that will not only get Google’s attention, but the attention of all those who contribute to America’s pill problem.”

The Boston Globe reported that in May Google noted in a regulatory filing that it had set aside $500 million to settle a Justice Department investigation of “certain” advertisers.

Canadian Best Price RX Pharmacy Drugstore.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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