Tuesday, November 17, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu: Online Crooks Selling 'Flu Drugs'

"Online gangs cash in on swine flu"
Reuters (November 16, 2009)

"Criminal gangs are making millions of dollars out of the H1N1 flu pandemic by selling fake flu drugs over the internet, a web security firm said on Monday.

"Sophos, a British security software firm said it had intercepted hundreds of millions of fake pharmaceutical spam adverts and websites this year, many of them trying to sell counterfeit antiviral drugs like Tamiflu to worried customers.

"Tamiflu, an antiviral marketed by Switzerland's Roche Holding and known generically as oseltamivir, is the frontline drug recommended by the World Health Organization to treat and slow the progression of flu symptoms. GlaxoSmithKline makes another antiviral for flu, known as Relenza...."

Taking Advantage of Panicky People

Adjectives like "disgusting" come to the Lemming's mind. More to the point, stocking up on Tamiflu, or some other drug, by buying it online can be dangerous. In several ways. Aside from the non-trivial matter of identity theft (the ersatz online pharmacies will want your credit card number and personal information, of course), there's the guessing game of 'what's in the pill?'

Me? I enjoy breathing, so it's not likely that I'd pop pills I got from some anonymous outfit I found on the Web.

But it Says "Canadian Pharmacy:" It Must be Okay

From the sounds of it, this lot of online fake pharmacists are a cut or two above the usual run of linguistically-challenged spammers:

"...Sophos said criminal gangs were operating medicines websites branded as the 'Canadian Pharmacy' to try to appear genuine.

"It said its research showed that on one network operated out of Russia, called Glavmed, it was possible to earn an average of $16,000 a day promoting pharmaceutical websites...."

That could be rough on real Canadian pharmacies, as word gets around that pill pushers are using that name as a front for a crooked operation.

H1N1 Pandemic: Sensible Advice Sounds So Dull

I think part of the problem with reacting to the H1N1 pandemic is that what outfits like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) say we should do sound so dull.

Like the CDC's "CDC Says 'Take 3' Actions To Fight The Flu" ("These actions will protect against 2009 H1N1 too!"). All it boils down to is:
  • "Take time to get a flu vaccine."
    • That's just standing in line and getting poked with a needle.
    • Boring and uncomfortable.
  • "Take everyday preventive actions."
    • "Aww - it's just stuff like 'use a tissue when you sneeze' and 'wash your hands.'
    • Boring.
    • And reminds people of advice Mom used to give.
  • "Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them."
    • This, at least, can be made exciting.
    • Pretend all doctors are in on that worldwide conspiracy - you know, the one involving
      • The Illuminati
      • Space aliens
      • Elvis
      • Or make up your own
Much as I don't want to seem boring and mom-like, I think it's pretty good advice. I've gotten a flu shot (just the usual annual one - H1N1 vaccine isn't available for the general public - yet, if ever).

About the conspiracies: No, I don't think space aliens and the Grateful Dead joined forces with the Illuminati and [insert your favorite secret bogeyman here] to bring the world to its knees through control of Tamiflu.

But it would make a great story.

List of posts relating to Swine flu 2009; and list of background resources:


Mutuelle said...

These crooks should be arrested and severely punished.

Defiscalisation said...

People should stop buying medicines from these crooks.

Rachat Credit said...

Its an abuse. The government should take immediate measures to stop these crooks.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Mutuelle, Defiscalisation, Rachat,

Agreed - The people running pharmaceutical scams like this seem to be about as popular as mosquitoes are, here in Minnesota.

I also agree that people should stop buying from them. Which is one reason why I wrote about this.

About "the government" taking "immediate measures." I'm inclined to agree - although I'm old enough to be a bit leery of "the government ought to do something" approaches to problems.

In this case, as the Reuters article put it, "...Sophos said many of the gangs behind the sites were based in Russia and the top five countries buying fake Tamiflu and other medicines on the internet were the United States, Germany, Britain, Canada and France...."

Which makes this a distinctly international problem. The Russian government should be interested - but it looks like they've got problems of their own. America, Germany, Britain, Canada and France all have functional national governments - and might be able to cooperate on dealing with this sort of criminal activity.

I've written before, about the 'frontier' aspect of the Internet. This is a new (if virtual) area for people and laws - and, like the American west, seems to be going through a period during which there are significant numbers of people dealing with each other, without much in the way of law enforcement.

It's interesting, to say the least.

Eventually, the various national legal systems will, I think, adjust to the existence of Information Age technology - and international law will, eventually, catch up too.

Sean Rushforth said...

Counterfeit tamiflu can be identified by using the steps mentioned here, Counterfeit Tamiflu Information

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

I believe you were trying to link to swineflubritain.co.uk, a domain registered to Sean Rushforth, an individual in the United Kingdom. This domain was originally registered on July 24, 2009.

Kudos, by the way, on using what appears to be your own name. I appreciate that level of openness. And, the website appears to be quite professionally designed.

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