LegitScript helps shut down a rogue Internet-pharmacy 'mother ship'

Company is broadening its monitoring services to include devices, nutritional supplements and 'designer drugs'

In the ongoing trench warfare between regulatory bodies, legitimate online healthcare-products activity and illegal or illicit online pharmacies, LegitScript (Portland, OR) says it has scored a significant victory recently: shutting down MyRxCash.com, a pharmacy affiliate-marketing portal. This “anchor” site, as LegitScript president John Horton calls it, was connected to hundreds of other websites that had used its templates and other back-end services to sell pharmaceuticals online without prescriptions. Affiliates could earn upwards of 40% commissions on their sales.

"This website was like a proverbial 'mothership' that spawned hundreds of unlicensed, unregulated rogue online pharmacies selling prescription-only medicines to patients, thus putting their health and safety at risk," Horton says. To effect the shutdown, LegitScript works with the major search engines (to which it is a contractor) and Internet domain-name providers to reject advertising and hosting services. These companies, in turn, are beholden to the US Dept. of Justice and many international regulatory agencies to police their own operations so as not to support illicit online activity. (Famously, Google paid a $500-million fine to DoJ in 2011 for its lax enforcement at that time.)

Horton says that it has been involved in the shutdown of 15,000 rogue pharmacies during this calendar year; it was also a participant in the international Operation Pangea V, which coordinated FDA, DoJ, Interpol and other enforcement agencies in shutting down illegal online pharmacies and confiscating counterfeit products. But the task is Sisyphean: new sites crop up routinely, and the cat-and-mouse game goes on.

Horton says that the company works primarily with these agencies and with the Internet service providers, but it also offers brand and product-monitoring services to the pharma industry. There is a sort of cross-endorsement relationship between it and the National Assn. of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP; Mt. Prospect, IL), which sponsors the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS), used by many legitimate online pharmacies. The company is about to launch a significant expansion of its services to include medical devices, nutritional supplements and “designer drugs” (synthetic products that, by subtly altering their chemistry, can avoid patents while still producing psychoactive effects)—a new worry for drug enforcement agencies.