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LegitScript signs agreement with Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare

I’m pleased to write that LegitScript has signed an agreement with the Japanese government — specifically, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which is sort of Japan’s version of the FDA — to monitor and help shut down rogue Internet pharmacies targeting Japan. As part of the agreement, LegitScript is authorized to submit abuse notifications to domain name registrars as the representative of the Japanese government. We’ve been granted “Section 3.18.2” designation — a sort of inside-ICANN thing that I’ll explain later in this blog, but is pretty cool.

Like any country, Japan is a target of rogue Internet pharmacy operators — websites selling prescription drugs without a prescription or selling unapproved drugs. Some of my staff have written more extensively about the laws and regulations that govern the online sale of drugs in Japan. For the most part, those laws and regulations are pretty similar to those in other countries: if you want to sell prescription drugs, you have to be licensed in a prefecture in Japan, and you obviously can’t sell prescription drugs without a prescription. Actually, online prescription drug sales are outright illegal in Japan, and OTC drug sales just became legal in some circumstances — most OTC drug sales weren’t even legal until recently. Importing prescription drugs from outside of the country is significantly restricted — it’s virtually impossible for an Internet pharmacy to actually comply with the provisions of the loophole — and drugs have to be approved for sale.

Anyway, what’s Section 3.18.2? Most domain name registrars are accredited by ICANN under the new (2013) Registrar Accreditation Agreement, which contains some provisions about what registrars are supposed to do when they get a complaint about domain names used for unlawful purposes. If you contact a registrar to complain about criminal activity, you are normally submitting a complaint under Section 3.18.1, which is for everyday Internet users. The registrar is required to “respond appropriately,” but there isn’t any particular time frame for their response. However, law enforcement and consumer protection agencies are authorized to submit complaints under Section 3.18.2, which contains heightened requirements for registrars to respond within 24 hours, maintain a dedicated abuse point of contact, and so forth — basically, they have to take it more seriously. But a “national or territorial government” can also designate an entity to operate under Section 3.18.2 on their behalf. I’m pleased to report that, insofar as we can tell, LegitScript is the first entity in the world to be granted a Section 3.18.2 designation under ICANN’s current Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

We’re going hard after three illegal online pharmacy networks targeting Japan — BestKusuri (now known as BestKenko…and if you are accessing that website outside of Japanese IP address space, don’t let the geo-targeting fool you into thinking that the website is under construction), Roy Union, and RxCash. They aren’t the only ones: there are other networks as well as multiple “indie” online pharmacies. So far, we’ve shut down several hundred rogue Internet pharmacies in Japanese. This complements our other work in Japan — for example, we actively monitor Google’s prescription drug and other healthcare ads in Japan for compliance with Japanese laws and regulations.

As LegitScript has grown — we have about 40 people now, and are continuing to grow — one of the coolest things from my perspective has been how international and global we’ve become. Our analysts include more non-native English speakers than native speakers, and hail from over a dozen countries and speak over 18 languages. We’re opening an office in the EU, and sometimes our staff meetings feel like a United Nations gathering.

At any rate, we’re glad to be doing more and more around the world to identify and target rogue Internet pharmacies, and especially proud to be partnering with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.