Google AdWords ban keeps drug savings from U.S. poor

The recent prohibition of Google ($GOOG) to sell AdWords to foreign online pharmacies, which follows its $500 million fine last month for doing so, hurts more than just Google's financials. It also eliminates an opportunity for the U.S. poor and uninsured to get medications more cheaply.

That's the message in an article in RealClearMarkets, written by Roger Bate, Legatum Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He says in an email he's received a lot of comments about the article.

The DOJ fine was part of an agreement with Google concerning controlled substances, but it eventually led to a block on all foreign online prescription drug ads, according to Bate's article. The ultimate effect of the agreement, he said, is that it gives poor patients no visibility to legitimate foreign online pharmacies that provide safe and effective drugs at lower prices than they could find in the U.S.

When Google initially started selling AdWords to online pharmacies, domestic and foreign, the pharmacies were verified by an independent credentialing organization. Bate said poor enforcement of the credentialing step led to the addition of ads for substandard and counterfeit medicines. Thus it followed that all such advertising was eliminated.

"By disallowing credentialed foreign sites from advertising it will harm public health," Bates writes.

He also blogged in reaction to the comments received about his article. "The poorest in society, the uninsured who get sick, should be helped with accurate information about where they can more safely buy cheaper drugs, if paying out of pocket. The status quo obscures which web entities are more likely to be safe, which to me is immoral."

- see the article
- here's the blog