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and Other High-Risk Merchants

Study: Traffic to Rogue Online Drug Sites Tripled From Last Year

MarkMonitor released a study yesterday suggesting that visits to rogue online drug sites have tripled over the last year. One third of the 2,986 websites the study reviewed saw nearly 100,000 visits daily. The company concedes that this isn’t a precise number, but used the Alexa website visitor ranking system to estimate traffic to sites selling six major pharmaceuticals.

The study estimated that sales of those six pharmaceutical drugs (illicit sales, that is) was about $12 billion. That’s a three-fold increase from the $4 billion MarkMonitor estimated last year. And the study found:

Marketers for these pharmacies and sites are becoming increasingly aggressive. MarkMonitor estimates brandjackers spend $26 million annually for search advertising using only those six (pharmaceutical) keywords.

One dynamic that MarkMonitor’s study may not have addressed is the structure of the rogue online pharmacy networks, which can result in 1,000 websites linking back to one main website where orders are processed and payments are conducted. Looking at individual website visits is a pretty good proxy for that (after all, individual website visitors don’t know that there are another 999 identical websites out there).

Another disturbing finding:

49 percent of the 2,986 pharmacies were hosted in the U.S., followed by the U.K., which hosted 12 percent, and Germany, which hosted 9 percent.

See our report on rogue websites selling steroids for a discussion of that issue.