Report: Google co-founder knew about illegal pharmacy ads

NEW YORK — Top officials at Google knew about ads for online black-market pharmacies displayed on the Internet search giant's website, according to published reports.

Forbes magazine reported that federal investigators said Google co-founder Larry Page was aware that the ads were illegal but still allowed them to be displayed, based on documents related to the case. The article quoted a company spokesman as saying that the company had settled and was "moving on," but that it should not have allowed the ads.

Last week, Google paid $500 million to the federal government to settle allegations that it allowed the pharmacies to display their ads. The pharmacies purported to be Canadian and sell prescription drugs online without requiring prescriptions to customers who go to them looking to save money.

In many cases, however, black-market pharmacies provide a way for counterfeit, adulterated and mishandled drugs to enter the U.S. healthcare system. Last month, a report by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found that 96% of 8,000 analyzed rogue pharmacy websites operated out of compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws, and more than 85% did not require a valid prescription.

Meanwhile, as Food and Drug Administration commissioner Margaret Hamburg recently remarked, between 30% and 50% of drugs used to treat serious conditions around the world are counterfeit, and the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest estimated that global drug counterfeiting is growing by 12% to 16% per year.