Japan, like the United States and EU, is a major target of unregulated prescription drug suppliers, with Japan’s pharmaceutical market the second largest in the world (the US is first). A few weeks ago, LegitScript shut down bestkusuri.com, one of the major rogue Internet pharmacies targeting Japan. Among other concerns, websites in the BestKusuri network of Internet pharmacies sell prescription drugs without a prescription; market unapproved drugs in Japan (that is, drugs not regulated by the Japanese government for safety and authenticity); and operate without a valid pharmacy license in Japan. While a very limited degree of prescription drug importation is permitted into Japan with specific requirements, the websites in the BestKusuri network do not adhere to those or other Japanese drug safety requirements. Accordingly, LegitScript classifies them as rogue and not in compliance with Japan’s drug safety and pharmacy licensure requirements designed to protect the health and safety of Japanese residents.
Upon realizing that bestkusuri.com was shut down, the network promptly redirected all of its traffic to bestkusuri.net. We shut down that website, too. The network then registered the domain names bestkenko.com and kusuriexpress.net with Joker.com, a registrar that continues to serve as a safe haven for rogue Internet pharmacies (see our previous reports about how criminal networks seek out “safe” domain name registrars). In addition to serving as a warning to Joker.com for continuing to harbor rogue Internet pharmacy activity, this is a valuable opportunity to look at how online pharmacy networks like BestKusuri operate, and to identify some of their major players. In this blog post, we attempt to shed light on the individuals involved in the website operation, including Mark Radford of OneNRG in Singapore, Heinz Marc Vargas and Collin Xu of Pagerise, also in Singapore — none of whom appear to be licensed as pharmacists or appear to have any medical training — as well as the apparent drug suppliers shipping drugs to Japan from India, connected to India’s SavaGroup.
Introducing OneNRG Pte Ltd.
After LegitScript shut down bestkusuri.com and bestkusuri.net, replacement websites bestkenko.com and kusurirexpress.net were registered, the latter on Oct. 3, 2012. Initially, kusuriexpress.net was registered to “Yuko Tanaka” — the type of common Japanese name that is all but impossible to verify — using an “offshore” address in the British Virgin Islands, a common method employed by some rogue Internet pharmacy networks of concealing one’s identity and moving money offshore. As shown below, the email address used to register the domain name was [email protected] — the same contact information and email address that had also been used for bestkusuri.net, but with a Singapore phone number.
owner: Yuko Tanaka
organization: Bushido Enterprises LTD
email: [email protected]
address: PO Box 957
address: Offshore Incorporations Centre, Road Town
This raises the question: Who, or what, is bushido-enterprises.com, and how does it relate to the BestKusuri Internet pharmacy network?
Several other rogue pharmacy websites in the BestKusuri network, including allaboutpill.com and biyou-kurasi.com (both also shut down by LegitScript) were registered to this email address, but instead of being registered to “Yuko Tanaka,” they were registered to the name “Mark Radford.” (This raises the question whether “Yuko Tanaka” is just a fictitious name.) Consider, for example, the recent domain name registration for allaboutpill.com, which was part of the same network of pharmaceutical websites targeting Japanese residents:
Mark Radford ([email protected])
P.O Box 957
Offshore Incorporations center
Mr. Radford can be confirmed as a real individual in several places, including his LinkedIn profile and on marketing pages, as a “director” of a Singapore company specializing in Japanese online marketing called OneNrg Pte Ltd. He also is tied to DialUsNow, a Singapore firm. LegitScript attempted to reach Mr. Radford via email and left a message for him via telephone as well, seeking comment. We have not received a reply.
Until a few days ago, onenrg.com, the website for OneNRG, was active and soliciting business. After LegitScript began reaching out to individuals associated with BestKusuri, the website went dark.
Introducing Pagerise Pte Ltd.
Another Singapore firm that appears to have a connection to both OneNRG and the BestKusuri network is Pagerise Pty Ltd. The company’s website, pagerise.com, merely sports a corporate logo without any explanation of what the business does. However, like OneNRG, Pagerise Pte Ltd. is a web marketing company specializing in the promotion of Japanese websites. Although LegitScript has not verified whether the firms have common ownership, the two businesses appear to share at least one employee (Amy Lee of Singapore, who describes herself as the human resources manager for both companies simultaneously) and, as explained below, Pagerise can be verified as having exercised some degree of control over the promotion or registration of bestkusuri.com and other websites in the Internet pharmacy network.
When bestkusuri.com and other websites in the Internet pharmacy network went offline, two individuals from Pagerise — Collin Xu and Heinz Marc Vargas — were the ones who responded, requesting that the domain names be reinstated. In the communication, Mr. Xu and Mr. Vargas identified bestkusuri.com and kusuriexpress.com as “our domains” and stated that the “websites are very important to us” — statements that would seem to reasonably imply either ownership or some degree of control over bestkusuri.com. LegitScript reached Mr. Vargas by phone; he confirmed his company’s connection with BestKusuri.
Readers should note that after those communications with Pagerise, LegitScript received a letter from a law firm in Singapore stating that “Pagerise Pte Ltd is not involved in any wrongful sale of online medicine and does not receive any proceeds from such alleged sale.” We note the denial. However, while the extent of Pagerise’s involvement in the BestKusuri online pharmacy business is unclear — whether they are the primary drivers of the online pharmacy business or act in support of, and coordination with, others — it is difficult, given Vargas’ and Xu’s roles and admissions referenced above, not to conclude that Pagerise has played a role in promoting bestkusuri.com and similar websites.
Moreover, it is important to understand how Internet pharmacies typically operate. What is commonly referred to as an “Internet pharmacy” is, of course, merely a website that markets prescription drugs and facilitates their sale. This is why Internet pharmacies (and Internet pharmacy networks) require both a website operator and a drug supplier, who are rarely the same person or people. bestkusuri.com, like any other online pharmacy, could not exist without someone responsible for promoting and maintaining the website. In this context, the role that companies like Pagerise and OneNRG play in promoting Internet pharmacy websites is not ancillary, but rather central to the online pharmacy’s business.
Introducing the SavaGroup
As noted above, after flagship Internet pharmacy bestkusuri.com went offline, followed by bestkusuri.net, replacement websites bestkenko.com and kusuriexpress.net (possibly among others) were registered.
Nearly immediately (within 11 days) after registering the domain name kusuriexpress.net (and seemingly immediately after our phone call to Mr. Vargas) the domain name registration information for kusuriexpress.net was modified to remove the [email protected] email address. Instead, it now lists a company and individual in India: Deepak Shinde of Anagha Pharma, to whom Pagerise also directed us after we contacted them:
owner: Deepak Shinde
organization: Anagha Pharma Pvt. Ltd.
email: [email protected]
address: 1st Floor, Old property No 1524
address: Wagholi, Tal – Haveli PUNE
Modifying domain name registration information to conceal one’s identity, especially after some indication that there might be an unflattering expose of the individual behind a rogue online pharmacy, is a common tactic used by rogue Internet pharmacy operators. In this case, the updated WHOIS record provides additional information about BestKusuri and, in particular, the other indispensable part of the network: the drug suppliers.
Anagha Pharma Pvt. Ltd. is part of the SavaPharm Group, a drug distributor based in India that supplies drugs to Internet pharmacies that market themselves as “Canadian” as well as multiple no-prescription-required rogue international pharmacies. SavaPharm Group has several DBAs, including Anagha Pharma, SavaMedica, SavaGlobal, Sava Trading Group, Sava Trading FEZ and Anagha Intertrade Service Pvt. Ltd. (Intertrade Service).
LegitScript research indicates that SavaPharm Group is a significant supplier in the rogue Internet pharmacy world, providing drugs that are sold without prescription requirements to private individuals in the BestKusuri business. SavaPharm Group’s other business operations include supplying counterfeit pet and human medicines to rogue Eastern Europe and faux-Canadian online pharmacy networks, including at least one Internet pharmacy, canadadrugs.com, identified in media reports as connected to the counterfeit drug business. Among the key figures in the SavaPharm Group is Vinod Jadhav, whom LegitScript views as a major figure in unregulated drug supply chain market due to his role in directing the SavaGroup’s supply of multiple illegal online drug networks. (Note: canadadrugs.com appears to have used multiple supply chains, and it is not clear whether SavaGroup sourced its counterfeit drugs; however, it is clear that its supply chain of drugs is unregulated for authenticity and safety by Japanese authorities in the same way that licensed Japanese pharmacies’ drug supplies are.)
SavaPharm Group is worth its own blog (or series of blogs) due to the extent of its involvement in global illicit drug supply, but a quick look helps to better understand the BestKusuri network targeting Japanese patients.
First, there is a reasonable indication that SavaPharm Group is increasing its focus on the Japanese market, with supplier websites such as nzsava.com, a Japanese-language website targeting bulk supply of pharmaceuticals via SavaPharm Group. The BestKusuri network appears to be one of the vehicles for this, but might not be the only one.
Second, consider the recent series of articles about canadadrugs.com and allegations that it is connected to counterfeit drug distribution (Avastin). Around the time that the counterfeit drug sales were coming to light, canadadrugs.com had identified Anam Pharmacy — identified at the time as a DBA for SavaGroup Pharmacy on LinkedIn, as shown below — as the source of several of their drugs.
Anam Pharmacy was subsequently scrubbed from canadadrugs.com as a source of drugs, and the Anam Pharmacy LinkedIn profile shown above has been disabled. Other indirect connections include SavaGlobal’s hiring of David Janeson, who formerly operated unapproved Internet pharmacy jandrugs.com (which was marketed as Canadian but actually sourced its drugs from — among other places — Singapore), a website that is now part of the larger canadadrugs.com network of websites, based on the shared physical address in Canada.
Other information also highlights concerns about SavaGlobal/Anam Pharmacy’s drug supply, not only for humans but also for our pets. A counterfeit drug and trademark infringement complaint filed by pharmaceutical giant Bayer in September 2011 tied no-prescription-required network Archipelago Suppliers (including websites such as freedom-pharmacy.com) to Anam Pharmacy, based on test purchases for prescription animal medications, further raising concerns about the company’s unregulated supply chain. All of these factors, combined with the failure to adhere to other Japanese drug safety and pharmacy practice regulations (such as requiring a prescription) are red flags about the safety of the BestKusuri Internet pharmacy network.
Whether legitimate or rogue, Internet pharmacies require, at a minimum, a website and a drug supply. In LegitScript’s experience, for rogue Internet pharmacies, these operations are typically bifurcated, with the supplier rarely in actual control of promoting the website, and the website operator typically never handling or actually dispensing the drugs. To some degree, this enables the website operators to point the finger at the drug suppliers, and vice versa; but in truth, rogue Internet pharmacy operations require a collaboration between the Internet marketers and the suppliers.
The BestKusuri network — now reinvented as kusuriexpress.net and bestkenko.com, among other websites — can accurately be seen as a collaboration between companies or individuals promoting the website(s), such as OneNRG and Pagerise, and the drug suppliers, in this case SavaGlobal, led by Vinod Jadhav and assisted by individuals such as Deepak Shinde. While the precise line of demarcation between Pagerise, OneNRG and possibly others is not fully clear, the fact that they have played some role seems indisputable: Internet pharmacies typically rely collaboration on multiple parties, and in this context, Pagerise and OneNRG, the latter based on Mark Radford’s connection and an apparent close relationship between the companies, have played a role in promoting the BestKusuri online pharmacy network, with SavaGlobal in India for part or all of the unregulated drug supply into Japan.
Here, too, the role that registrars play in rogue Internet pharmacy networks is less direct but critically important: separate registrars, refusing to allow their platforms to be used in furtherance of rogue online pharmacy operations, suspended domain names including bestkusuri.com and then bestkusuri.net. Rogue Internet pharmacy networks therefore seek registrars perceived as safe platforms for illegal pharmaceutical activity, such as Joker.com, to ensure that they can continue unregulated Internet-based drug sales uninterrupted.
Of particular concern is what’s really going on behind the admittedly slick, professional-looking Japanese websites: a failure to adhere to Japanese drug safety requirements; the lack of a pharmacy license in Japan; failure to comply with the very limited provisions of Japan’s personal importation exception; the marketing of unapproved drugs; and the sale of prescription-only medicines without requiring a prescription. Japan’s drug safety regulations are designed to protect human health and safety; the continued operations of the BestKusuri network in violation of these standards puts patients at risk. Accordingly, we call on Pagerise and OneNRG to voluntarily shut down and discontinue registering the Internet pharmacy websites. Meanwhile, Joker.com — like other registrars before them have — should suspend domain names such as bestkenko.com to ensure that its platform is not being used by rogue Internet pharmacy networks.