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My Twitter Spat With a Russian Rogue Internet Pharmacy Operator

Over the last 24 hours, we’ve been having an interesting discussion over Twitter with a fellow who goes by the handle @raznoe (or, in his native Russian, Разное). @raznoe appears to be an Internet pharmacy operator, based on his introductory tweet expressing his relief that @hover, a Tucows domain name reseller, was not going to "submit to intimidation by rogue American NGO" LegitScript, and also expressing his hope that someday I'd be prosecuted. (For what, @raznoe? Going after cybercriminals selling fake drugs online? You might be confused about a few things, friend.)

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I racked my brain trying to think about when we'd submitted a complaint to Hover and I realized that they're actually a domain name reseller for Tucows, a Canadian domain name registrar. We sent Tucows a complaint a few weeks ago about 27 domain names in the BestKusuri -- now, more accurately known as the BestKenko -- network of rogue Internet pharmacies targeting Japan, including the network's flagship rogue Internet pharmacy (Note that if you try to visit that page, it displays a Japanese "under construction" message unless you access it from a Japanese IP address, in which case you get the full content selling you unapproved drugs.)

We've been going after the BestKenko network for a few years now, as we wrote back in 2012.  We detailed the reasons that BestKenko is a rogue Internet pharmacy in that blog post and won't belabor them here, aside from a quick summary: no prescription required; unapproved drugs advertised and marketed to Japanese residents; and no valid pharmacy license. But an additional point that's occurred since then is important to note: LegitScript signed an agreement with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and when dealing with rogue Internet pharmacies shipping drugs to Japan, we're authorized to submit complaints to registrars on behalf of the Japanese health authorities. The Japanese health authorities requested that LegitScript notify Tucows that and several affiliated domain names are illegally selling unapproved drugs to Japan and to request suspension of the domain name. We had been just about ready to shut down several weeks ago when it was registered with Joker, a registrar in Germany, but the website "escaped" to Tucows.

Based on @raznoe's reference to @hover, I inferred that he must be a website operator for one or more of the 27 BestKenko websites we notified Tucows about. To confirm it, we asked him to verify the domain name he's referring to.

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@raznoe declined to do so, trying to divert the conversation to unrelated matters, such as wanting to know who is paying us to submit the complaint. (Well, @raznoe, in this case it comes from the Japanese Ministry of Health, whose job it is to protect Japanese citizens from substandard drugs like the ones you sell.) We asked @raznoe several times for the name of the website he operates, his name and his pharmacy license. He declined to say, which merits a #if-you-are-a-legitimate-Internet-pharmacy-then-what's-to-hide tag. Although @raznoe's never told us his website name, based on the context, it seems reasonable to assume that BestKenko is actually being operated by this Russian marketer, or at least some of the websites are, since the only notifications we've recently sent to Tucows where Hover is the reseller relate to BestKenko.

My main concern based on this Twitter conversation pertains to what may be Tucows' response, if @raznoe is telling the truth. For now, it's probably best to just suspend judgment on that part of it until I have a chance to catch up with the folks at Tucows.

In any event, look, this isn't hard. Internet pharmacies selling prescription drugs aren't legal in Japan. And, there's nothing legitimate about selling prescription drugs without a prescription. There's an extremely, extremely narrow legal exception for prescription drug importation, but BestKenko doesn't come close to meeting it, and it's selling drugs that aren't approved for safety or authenticity in Japan. As we've previously noted, the supplier has been identified as having supplied an online pharmacy operation verified as selling counterfeit cancer medicines. And (ahem), if a website selling medicines to Japan was legit, wouldn't it normally be run by a Japanese pharmacist...not some guy in Moscow without any training as a pharmacist?

I'll end with another shout-out to @raznoe: Guess what, dude; legitimate Internet pharmacies have nothing to hide. They disclose their domain name, pharmacy license and who they are because they aren't afraid about getting arrested or prosecuted. Come clean, and let us know what your website name is and who you are. If you don't, you just prove what we've said all along: sunshine is what the rogue Internet pharmacies are most afraid of.