back to article Google settles illegal drug ad probe for $500 million

Google has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a US Department of Justice investigation into allegations that it allowed Canadian pharmacies to advertise on its US search engine, facilitating the illegal importation of controlled and non-controlled substances into the country. In a statement released on Tuesday, the …


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  1. Stuart 25

    Clearly not bribing enough politicians

    Most corporations the size of Google pay enough "campaign contributions" to ensure immunity from these problems.

    Is Google paying off the wrong people or is the government so desperate for money that they don't stay bribed?

    1. alwarming

      Re: Clearly not bribing enough politicians

      They are up against US medical + pharma behemoth here.

  2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Indeed, No Shit, Sherlock .... the Land of the Free .

    So, is that it .... is that the way US justice works ? Pay a big enough, mickey mouse fine and everyone avoids jail time for selling illegal drugs, for years despite being told it was illegal? Crikey, how perverse and revolutionary.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Illegal? Lol

      "Illegal" drugs? You mean perfectly legal, safe, tried and tested -medicines- that Canada just happens to be selling cheaper than the US? Hell, if I had to pay £100 for something I could get in Scotland for £10 I'd hop across the border too...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        The Law

        How about instead of going after Google we do something productive like appeal the stupid law.

        1. Oneil Stuart

          Re: The Law

          Or upgrade the US Healthcare System.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          But it is still the Law

          It may be a stupid law, but the point is that it currently *is* the Law, and breaking it would get you or me some chokey time. But Google get to pay out some of *other peoples money* (it belongs to the shareholders, not the execs) and avoid the actual penality proscribed in the law.

          The Justice system has been severly compromised by all these "settlements" where companies give a campaign donation (it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck) and in most cases don't even admit to any wrong doing. By not even admitting wrong doing they are then allowed to carry on as long as they hide it a little better.

          We need to see jail time for corporate criminals.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            So you think it'd be fairer for a random executive who is hated by his boss and probably had nothing to do with it to take the fall? Because if jail was on the cards, do you really think the senior execs who were to blame would take the fall?

            $500 million in the pocket has a lot more potential to do some good than putting some poor fall-guy in prison. And blaming one guy doesn't punish a corporation. Hitting their wallet is what hurts corps.

            I'd have been happier with -for example- NotW being fined £250 million than their reporter taking the blame, and getting a nice sweetener from NotW for being a good boy and eating his porridge.

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Other people's money?

            "it belongs to the shareholders, not the execs"


            The execs have been tasked by the shareholders to perform daily biz operations. If the shareholders didn't demand an emergency shareholder meeting concerning the above problem, payout it shall be.

            "It may be a stupid law, but the point is that it currently *is* the Law"

            Only an ass has respect for a the law that is ass.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Before condemning it...

      Have a look how must asthma inhalers cost in the US compared to Canada. People are quite rightly looking for a way to halve or more the money that they have to spend every month on staying alive.

  3. Efros
    Thumb Down

    Is it just me

    or do some of these investigations by various state and federal entities seem to be some way of extorting money, fuck the money, go to court and start throwing some of these white collar pricks into jail.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Nope ... it ain't just you

      Most of these legal actions are bought by attorney generals from different states with political aspirations and in this case, probably by drug companies who think their ill gotten profits my be siphoned off. Drug companies trump internet search engines any day of the week.

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    And people complain about Racketeering Organizations?

    Addies for perfectly good Canadian medicines, don't even sell them yourself...

    Big Bro' rings up, wants a pound of flesh. Cheap stuff? Trying to run rings around this here pharma cartel, son? You are going down! God knows you may be enticing people to open a meth house or something.

    But at least the FDA-approved crap is save. Oh wait, aren't there several lawsuits pending about approved meds killing people years later? I must be imagining it.

  5. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    Small misquote?

    "“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 Phamaceutical Companies,”"

    There, fixed that.

    1. mhenriday
      Thumb Up

      Beat me to it, Pirate Dave !

      How dare you ?!!...


  6. Armando 123

    I will say this

    Having worked in pharma/IT, and knowing what can be used as inactive ingredients in some countries, I'll happily pay the higher price for domestic pharmaceuticals. In fact, those from *cough* certain East Asian nations can have nothing like they're supposed to have. One firm was selling pills to lower blood sugar that were found to contain only salts and powdered plaster. It was kept quiet, considering whom the company who'd bought the Chinese pills for redistribution contributed to certain political entities.

    1. Marcus Aurelius

      Drug quality

      May be an issue in some countries, but it wouldn't be beyond the wit and wisdom of mankind for the US to recognise countries which have acceptable standards. Maybe some African and East Asian countries are off the list, but I'd expect that most of Europe and *cough* Canada would have acceptable drug control regimes....

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    of course there is a bribe somewhere

    they forgot to mention that most of that "illegal importation" is medicine manufactured in the US. this is probably a case of big pharma contributions to politicos, to keep allowing them to rip off the american people while selling the same stuff at half price in other countries

  8. Flybert

    Are they going after the Canadian Pharmacies ?

    "The settlement covers (the gross revenue Google received from the illegal advertisements and) the gross revenue made by the Canadian pharmacies from sales to customers in the US."

    wtf ? .. shouldn't they have gotten the the gross revenue made by the Canadian pharmacies from those phamacies ? .. or was it just easier to sue Google than to piss off the Canadians that knowingly sold the stuff ?

    that being said, that US companies and Medicare can't buy drugs approved by Canada to save costs is absurd ..

    1. vanders1

      Stop that right now, there!

      Ermm - so they're supposed to sue Canadian pharmacies - for selling drugs in Canada?

      US law ends at the US border. US stupidity on the other hand, seems global.

  9. Nightkiller
    Big Brother

    Good One

    Creative Way found by Bureaucrats to use the Internet to help pay for the deficit.

  10. Stevie


    So it is bad, evil and dangerous for me to buy my Lipitor in Canada where it is cheaper, but it is safe, beneficial and good for me to be sent by my insurance company to India for heart surgery (where it is cheaper)?


  11. Turtle

    Miscarriage of Justice.

    That there have been no prison sentences handed out, is completely unacceptable. And those would need to be *lengthy* prison sentences.

    And if this size of this fine does not exceed, several times over, the profits garnered by Google, then that too is unacceptable. Because I would not be surprised if payment of this fine still leaves Google with a profit from the activities for which they are being fined.

    1. Rob 5

      Leaves Google with a profit?


      I'm often very critical of Google, when it deserves criticism, but not in this case. The whole thing is nothing more than the state acting as hired thugs for crooked companies (manufacturers, pharmacies, other villains in the medicine racket) to prop up a racket whereby the the American people get scammed, time and time again.

      1. Turtle

        Even if you were right....

        "The whole thing is nothing more than the state acting as hired thugs for crooked companies (manufacturers, pharmacies, other villains in the medicine racket) to prop up a racket whereby the the American people get scammed, time and time again."

        Here is the link to the AP story: from which I will quote: "A separate U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation into drugs that claimed to be manufactured in Canada found that 85 percent of the drugs examined came from 27 different countries, including some that were found to be counterfeit, said Kathleen Martin-Weis, acting director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations."

        Now if you want to dispute that, go ahead. But do it with something from a reputable source, 'kay?

    2. Anonymous Coward


      "And if this size of this fine does not exceed, several times over, the profits garnered by Google..."

      Methinks you need to learn how to read. They had to pay their profits PLUS the profits of the drug companies themselves. So no "if" about it there.

      On the other hand, who exactly was hurt by selling ads?

      1. Turtle

        You too. . .

        It would appear that you too could use a reading lesson. What the article says is "The settlement covers the gross revenue Google received from the illegal advertisements and the gross revenue made by the Canadian pharmacies from sales to customers in the US.'

        What *I* said, is that I want the fine to "exceed, several times over, the profits garnered by Google..." There is nothing in the article that states that that is what the outcome of the settlement and fine/forfeiture will be.

        1. mhenriday

          No, «Turtle», what «you» said (wrote) in your second paragraph was the following :

          «And if this size of this fine does not exceed, several times over, the profits garnered by Google, then that too is unacceptable. Because I would not be surprised if payment of this fine still leaves Google with a profit from the activities for which they are being fined.» For some odd reason, you seem to have neglected the second period in the paragraph in your reply above to Anonymous Coward. Short-term memory failure ?...


          1. Turtle

            "You too.." also.

            Perhaps YOU see something in the story that says that their forfeiture is serveral times as large as the revenue received from the ads they ran? No? Didn't think so. So your point is... what, exactly? That they surrendered the revenue received and perhaps end up not much worse than they would have if they had not run the ads? Perhaps you were incapable of inferring my idea is not Google should end up *no worse off* or "not much worse off" than if they not accepted the ads, but *much, much worse off*. See the difference there?

            Perhaps the reason that *you* ignoring the first sentence is *also* short-term memory failure?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Do no evil...

    ... well, ok, just a little bit of evil, every so often, when it suits us.

    The amount of money here is just... overwhelming. That fact that Google can just go "ok, you got us, here's $500 million" is - heck, it's just mad.

    If there's one thing Google will live to regret, is the "do no evil" statement - Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely

    1. Raz

      None offered

      @Matt89 As other people have said, Google was not evil at all here. I dislike Google as much as anyone else caring about privacy, but the law here obviously worked for the drug companies.

      Nail Google as responsible for the extinction of privacy, but for this?

      If someone really believes that drugs sold in Canada and US are different, right now there is a drugs shortage in Canada because a company in Ohio could not get their stuff together and has some contaminated products or something. Figure it out how different the drugs sold in the two countries really are.

  13. Herby

    And where does the fine (payoff, whatever it is called) go?

    Right into the pockets of the corrupt officials that started the "investigation" in the first place. Does it help us low life consumers who want the lower prices for our Lipitor? Not one bit.

    Then again, it pays for running the government for a couple of hours (if that!).

  14. Dropper


    I'm somewhat surprised they are still allowing searches for illegal pharmacies operating within the US. I would have thought these would have been an easier target for the DEA and somewhat more sinister given that more than a few sell opiods or tramadol to anyone with a credit card and 2-3 minutes to spare filling out a medical questionaire. I suppose no one would know what to do with the all the strung out addicts suddenly cut off from their dealers.

  15. The Envoy

    Where does the money go?

    So ... will those 500 million be put to good use or just be spihoned off left and right, evaporate....?

  16. Head
    Thumb Down


    What the-

    "According to public documents, Google was warned repeatedly by US state and Canadian regulators and independent watchdogs that it was running ads from online pharmacies that were breaking US laws."

    So Google gets fined for the exact amount it and the Canadian companies made, $500?

    Where are the fines for doing the wrong thing?? For breaking the law??

    What a useless finding. Its just the same as a shoplifter getting caught by the cops, and all they have to do is hand the good back and off they go.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Stopping the ads on Google won't stop the "penis pills" and the "make money at home" spam that gets sent :(

  18. Brett Weaver

    A light observation...

    As such a late-comer to democracy (when did blacks get full rights in all electorates?) the United States Citizen still has a belief in the law that beggars Saints in their God.

    I have travelled with truck drivers and such in the southern states who thought that not paying taxes was the equivalent of being a traitor..

    I'm afraid there are 1.5 billion commonwealth citizens who will never understand them .. But still think they are pretty! :-)

  19. darklord

    Same drug companies differnt countries

    Clearly the US druges are marked up as many that i have seen are the same drugs same companies but just cheaper across the border.

    Therfore ppromting at a cheaper price the only people cutting there own throats is the drug companies as they sell the same drug cheaper in canada. Urghh go figure.

    Clearly the loss of trade is to do with lost taxes import or local variety.

    Any know how much mark up the US goverment applies to Pharma companies. Like petrol here in the uk some 80+% is taxes.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Drugs or food

    In the meantime many poor Americans have to decide between eating or paying their pharmacy bills*. Land of the Free - so long as you can pay the price.

    (*source: my wife who used to be a home health nurse in the US)

    1. Dropper

      As the Chinese will tell you..

      America is not free, but with mortgage rates at record lows, it becomes better value for money every day.

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