The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating allegations that Google has illegally advertised and made money from the sale of drugs through online pharmacies.
The DOJ is trying to ascertain whether or not Google knowingly allowed the pharmacies based in Canada and The U.S. to advertise through their advertising site Google AdWords, thus violating U.S. laws.
While several websites are known to sell prescription drugs, some of them do underhand things like selling fake drugs or drugs which have passed their expiry date. Some of them also dispense the drugs without a valid prescription.
The investigation, which is being conducted by the Food and Drugs Administration in Rhode Island, aimed to uncover whether the executives at Google were aware of these illicit activities, and if so, how much money Google has generated through this means.
In the past, Google has done its bit to prevent rogue online pharmacies from advertising on their site. In 2003, Google banned pharmacies that dispensed medicines without valid prescriptions.
Google’s competitors, Yahoo! and Microsoft, have also had to undergo similar investigations in the past.
After the present investigations were started last year, Google decided to allow only U.S. pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and pharmacies accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association in Canada to advertise on their site.
They have already brought in a court order preventing the pharmacies named in the lawsuit from advertising on their site.
While spokespersons from Google, as well as the DOJ, have refused to comment on the issue, Google has set aside $500 million, while filing their quarterly results with the Securities And Exchange Commission, for a settlement with the DOJ. While this is a large amount for a settlement it isn’t big by Google’s standards – the company is expected to generate $30 billion through advertising this year alone.