Savvy marketing boosts fake pharmacies

If you ever doubt the growing black market for counterfeit prescription drugs, just check out this report from MarkMonitor, the brand-abuse tracking firm. Researchers found that the number of people visiting online pharmacy sites every day has tripled to 99,000 from 32,000 last year. And that's 99,000 people for each site. And MarkMonitor tracked almost 3,000 sites. Do the math, and it's mind-boggling.

Then consider the fact that of those 3,000 sites, only two--yes, two--were certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as "trusted" sites. Most of them advertise their meds at discounts of up to 85 percent compared with standard prices. So, MarkMonitor reasonably concludes, not many are likely to be selling legitimate products.

MarkMonitor's research comes on the heels of a European study released last month, which found that 62 percent of meds sold online were fake or substandard, and 96 percent of pharmacy sites operated illegally.

How are these fakers attracting so many customers? In a word, marketing. They've spruced up their websites and invested in ads--about $26 million worth, MarkMonitor estimates. "Counterfeit sites now use all the same marketing best practices you'd see on a legitimate site," one of the researchers said.

- read the story in Forbes