THE MAGAZINE

What Ails Online Pharmacies

By Carlton Purvis

Pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Eli Lilly, allowed EAASM to use their brand names and pictures on the site, as did the major payment card companies. Their logos are on “all the crooked Web sites anyway. So one more that actually wasn’t crooked wasn’t a big leap of faith for them,” Thomson said.

The homepage was designed to look like a typical online pharmacy with features like stock photos of people and medications, Visa and MasterCard logos, a place to “contact a doctor,” and even an icon at the bottom of the page indicating that the pharmacy was “verified.” The page featured medicines for some of the most searched conditions, including HIV, erectile dysfunction, and sleep disorders.

For the nine weeks from September 26 to November 27, the site attracted more than 360,000 visitors; in fact, the site did such a good job of attracting its target audience that 85 percent of people searching for online pharmacies in Germany during that time period ended up at the Medizin Direkt Web site.

Visitors came to the Medizin Direkt site from more than 112 countries.

Teachable moment. Once a potential shopper clicked anywhere on the page, they were directed to a page warning about the dangers of buying medicine online. The page included advice on buying medicine safely online and links to legitimate online pharmacies.

The warning message was viewed about 195,000 times by a total of about 142,000 unique visitors, meaning that many of the visitors had returned to the Web site. Around 19,000 viewed additional advice linked on the warning page and about 14,000 looked over the list of legitimate pharmacies.

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