Several state attorneys general are pressing Google to make it harder for users to find counterfeit prescription medicine and illegal drugs online, marking the second time in three years the firm has drawn government scrutiny for its policies on rogue Internet pharmacies.
Their complaints, conveyed in a letter signed by 24 top state prosecutors, led to private meetings with Google executives earlier this year in Denver and Washington, producing contentious exchanges about the company’s practices. Now, while some of the attorneys general are pleased with Google’s response to their concerns, others want the tech giant to go further.
At the same time, the company’s past practices have raised the ire of shareholders, who have alleged in two little-noticed lawsuits that a lax stance by the company toward prescription drug ads until 2010 put it in legal and financial jeopardy.
Google, which failed to persuade a California judge to dismiss the suits, entered settlement talks last month after attorneys for the shareholders obtained emails showing that top executives warned then-Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and co-founder Larry Page more than a decade ago about the risks of accepting such ads.
Google declined to comment on the shareholder suits. But the company said it has poured resources into trying to stamp out rogue Internet pharmacies, disabling 4.6 million pharmaceutical or health supplement ads that did not meet its standards last year. And since 2010, when it toughened its advertising policy, the number of Web ads placed by unlicensed pharmacies dropped by 99.9 percent, according to Google.