Posted on 11-Feb-2005 02:10
Filed under: News
Pfizer, the maker of Viagra (sildenafil citrate) and Microsoft Corp. are filing parallel lawsuits against two international pharmacy spam rings operating websites that sell illegal "generic" versions of Pfizer's erectile dysfunction (ED) medication. Viagra is estimated to account for up to one out of four spam messages.
The legal actions are the result of a seven-month investigation during which the two companies collaborated to track down the illegal drug distributors operating these websites as well as the spammers advertising them.
The two companies have filed a total of 17 new actions against defendants involved in the sale and advertising of potentially dangerous medications. Pfizer has filed civil actions against two websites that allegedly promote and sell products that are unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer also filed ten other domain name actions.
In conjunction with Pfizer's suits against CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct, Microsoft filed civil actions against the spammers advertising for those websites. In addition, Microsoft filed three suits against spammers who advertise other online pharmacies known under a variety of names, such as "Discount RX," "Virtual RX," and "EzyDrugStore.com." Together, these pharmacy spam rings have allegedly sent hundreds of millions of e-mail messages to Microsoft's MSN Hotmail customers within the past year alone. The defendants allegedly use illegal and deceptive e-mail techniques that violate the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and other state and federal laws.
Pfizer and Microsoft first investigated CanadianPharmacy, a website advertised by high volume spamming. Working together, the companies' investigators uncovered a sophisticated spam ring with several groups of affiliates all advertising websites associated with CanadianPharmacy. The spam directs recipients to one of dozens of identical websites. Many of these websites are registered with the true names and addresses of persons unassociated with the websites or spam rings, and who were unaware that their identities are being used in conjunction with these activities.
Tracing the order process, investigators determined that the website encompasses an allegedly illegal pharmaceutical supply chain that spans the globe. Consumers place orders for drugs advertised as Viagra or illegal "generic" Viagra on one of several websites advertised by spam. Once the consumers' online orders are received on computers in New York, they are sent to a call center headquartered in Canada, and then on to India for processing. The orders are filled with illegal, unregulated and unapproved products. The illegal generic drugs are then shipped from India to the United States and delivered by an airfreight forwarding company based in the United States.