Unlike spam Internet pharmacies, which tend to pop up and get shut down within days, some rogue Internet pharmacy owners have gone to great lengths to establish a stable Internet presence, recruiting affiliates and customers, avoiding spam and finding “safe haven” Registrars and ISPs that knowingly tolerate and even protect illegal and medically dangerous activity.
At the top of our list of illegal Internet pharmacy networks is xlpharmacy.com.
The XLPharmacy network is a criminal entity for three primary reasons. First, it does not require a prescription for the sale of prescription drugs. Second, it does not have required pharmacy licenses. Third, the drugs it ships are unregulated (in the US, not FDA-approved) and may or may not be safe. XLPharmacy.com fails every important requirement of drug safety in the US and other countries. It also has been very successful in finding ways to appear on the first page (sometimes as the top result) of organic search results for many prescription drugs, meaning that it is the first website that many unsuspecting patients may turn to.
So why is XLPharmacy.com still online?
We hope that it won’t be for long. Over the weekend, most of the network’s affiliates, many of which were operated by an Arizona company, were shut down. The reasons that xlpharmacy.com, the order processing site, is still online points to systemic problems in the Internet infrastructure, such as a Registrar willing to profit from and protect illegal Internet pharmacies that put the sick and vulnerable at risk.
First, who is behind XLPharmacy.com? Good question, but it is currently registered to Juan Garciaat Calle Rojo 77, in Caracas, Venezuela. On the other hand, when we contacted Realtime Register in 2010 to notify the company it was sponsoring illegal activity, Erik Wellner of Realtime (apparently) mistakenly inserted the name of Edwin Samaniego Nunez into the email (there is nobody at LegitScript by that name), indicating that perhaps Mr. Wellner mistakenly inserted Realtime Register’s client’s name into the email. Then again, WhoIs information is notoriously unreliable, and the choice of an ISP (see discussion below) may point to the real identity, or at least nationality, of the individual or organization that controls XLPharmacy.
Despite the clear illegal nature of this website, it continues to survive for two primary reasons.
- A “safe haven” Registrar. Realtime Register was noted in our April 2010 report as one of five (out of 16) Registrars that failed to suspend the domain names of Internet pharmacies that were shown to be displaying forged pharmacy licenses. Even when we thereafter notified the company (Erik Wellner) that it was sponsoring and profiting from criminal activity, unlike other responsible Registrars (now, including GoDaddy, eNom and others) it refused to act.
- A “safe haven” hosting service. Think that XLPharmacy.com is legitimate? Then why is it hiding on a server in Russia? XLPharmacy.com moved its content to 18.104.22.168, which is rented to best-hosting.ru. Russia is a central haven for Internet pharmacy-related crime.
Additionally, Visa, MasterCard, AmericanExpress, JCB Cards and Diners Card all continue to provide services to XLPharmacy.com, the payment processing site for XLPharmacy, thus enabling the network to continue putting Internet users at risk.
LegitScript is particularly troubled by Realtime Register, which our statistics indicate is turning into a safe haven for drug-related activity on the Internet, along with two or three other Registrars that tolerate rogue Internet pharmacies. Despite its status as a small Registrar, Realtime Register is one of the registrars of choice for Russian criminal organizations such as Rx-Partners and Rx-Promotion (targeted by international law enforcement this last November) when those criminal network want to protect high-value domain names with high SEO rankings engaged in the illicit drug market.
LegitScript will continue to list xlpharmacy.com and its affiliates as rogue Internet pharmacies, and encourages Internet users to avoid XLPharmacy and its affiliate websites.