By Charlotte Young
Google may not be the drug pusher on the neighborhood block, but the Internet company is involved in a U.S. criminal investigation about its online drug advertisements.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google allegedly made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from online pharmacy advertisements that sold drugs unapproved by the U.S. Investigators have looked into whether Google executives knew about the illegal ads from pharmacies in Canada and other countries, and simply turned a blind eye to the activities.
This is not the first time Google has been cited for illegal advertisements. In 2007, Google, along with Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., all paid a combined fine of $31.5 million to the Justice Department to settle civil charges that the companies had accepted illegal gambling sites ads.
The three companies also stopped accepting ads from U.S. companies that offered drugs such as Viagra and Vicodin without prescriptions after public pressure from the FDA.
In 2004, Google made the controversial decision to continue carrying ads from Canadian pharmacies with U.S. customers. But in 2010, the company said it would only carry ads from U.S. pharmacies recognized by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and online Canadian pharmacies accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association.
Google nor the Justice Department would offer many details about the case, but a filing released this week from Google admits that the company is in the works of a $500 million settlement. If the payment is accepted, it would be one of the largest penalties paid by a company to settle a dispute with the U.S. government.