Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
I heard a report about black market pharmaceuticals on NPR’s Morning Edition on my way to work this morning. Here are bits and pieces of the article with my reactions.
An apparent feud between two black market pharmacies has shed light on a shady global industry.
“Rx-Promotion and SpamIt probably are responsible for upward of 50 or 60 percent of spam that you and I got in our inboxes over the last five years,” said Brian Krebs, a cyber-security reporter who chronicled the alleged feud on his website. “It’s just a ridiculous amount of problems that these two guys cause for everybody.”
Let’s see – I have a fairly busy inbox and thanks to some crazy features like ‘SPAM’ and ‘Block Sender,’ I get virtually ZERO spam messages through my email. How is this any sort of hardship on me? Then again, maybe not everyone can afford Gmail.
As part of a dispute between the pharmacies’ owners, the digital files of both companies — once two of the largest black market pharmacies in the world — were hacked and ended up in Krebs’ hands.
“We’re talking about the contact information, the bank account information, the email addresses, phone numbers, sometimes passport information for many of the biggest spammers in the planet,” said Krebs. “Not only that, but all the personal information of all the people who ever bought pills through these spam sites over four years.”
I feel bad for the poor people that will now suffer under government persecution because this yahoo ended up with this information. What are the odds that this guy will not turn that information over to the feebs?
Skipping ahead a bit:
At the center of these operations are these international pharmacies, often in countries like Russia.
Because these sites operate in the black market, selling prescription drugs without prescriptions, they’ve historically turned to spam and other shady advertising practices to get the word out about their medications.
“We wouldn’t call what they’re doing legitimate; it’s illegal in this country,” said Savage. “But the fundamental practice is, they are trying to advertise this product.”
The spammers are typically independent contractors paid on commission by the pharmacy for the sales they generate — something like 30 or 40 percent of the purchase price.
Well, this part is absolutely horrible. Can you believe that someone is advertising a service to someone else in the hopes that the second party will partake of the service being advertised? Oh, wait – “it’s illegal in this country” = now I begin to understand. Something is bad because the government tells us so and because it may be, in some small way, a bit annoying. Those Redplum flyers get in my physical mailbox somehow and I find throwing them into the trash more work than not get spam on my email.
Skipping ahead again:
In the course of Savage’s research, he and his team placed over 800 test orders and typically received their chosen medications in a timely fashion.
“We’ve maybe only had one time where we didn’t get anything,” said Savage. They tested some of the drugs they received, and all had the proper amount of the active ingredient.
Savage says the vast majority of customers are ordering erectile dysfunction drugs. Others order painkillers or stimulants for recreational use. But up to 15 percent of orders come from people seeking medications to treat chronic health conditions, likely because they can’t afford to purchase them through legal avenues.
You order from the pharmacy, they source it cheaper then you can get it locally, therefore it is bad. On top of that, some of the people are taking stimulants for enjoyment. Others are using drugs as sex aids. Perish the thought.
Dave Keck turned to an online pharmacy when he was dropped from his parents’ insurance and decided his acne needed prescription-strength help from a medication called Accutane.
Keck knew the risks, both of taking a very strong anti-acne drug without a doctor’s supervision and of ordering drugs from abroad. It’s technically illegal in the U.S., and he worried it might be a scam.
Keck decided to try taking the medication.
“After I’d taken it for about a week, I was 100 percent sure it was the real deal, just based on the side effects,” said Keck.
Not all online pharmacies operate in the black market; the Food and Drug Administration says Americans should only order from sites that are licensed and located in the U.S. Otherwise, there may not be proper oversight or quality control on these medications. And if these drugs wind up making customers sicker in the long run, it’s actually not such a bargain.
A guy wants to take some medicine to dry out his skin and help with his acne. He orders it, takes it, receives a benefit from it. This is a bad thing. Why? Simply because he did not ask permission from a doctor and the pharmacy did not ask permission from the FDA. Remember, drugs in the US would never be tainted.