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Pfizer Brings Legal Barrage Against Online 'Viagra' Sales

By Kevin W. FitzMaurice
Aug 3, 2004 12:39 PM PT

Pfizer today announced it has filed a barrage of lawsuits aimed at shutting down online sales of generic, counterfeit or fake versions of Viagra, its copyrighted erectile dysfunction medication.

Pfizer Brings Legal Barrage Against Online 'Viagra' Sales

The New York-based drugmaker filed the suits against dozens of what it called "illegitimate online pharmacies," accusing them of trademark infringement and dilution and unfair competition under both federal and state law, as well as deceptive trade practices in violation of New York state law.

The complaints also allege that the defendants are selling and importing non-FDA approved sildenafil citrate, the generic form of Viagra, in violation of U.S. law, including the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Some of the suits also seek to seize domain names.

The company, in a statement it issued, said it filed more than two dozen Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) actions to seize domain names using Pfizer's Viagra trademark in an unauthorized manner. Each action alleges that the accused are using the Viagra trademark in bad faith to sell products that have not been approved by the FDA.

Law Enforcement Involved

In addition, the company said it is working with law enforcement to crack down on the illegal sales.

Pfizer also announced it has launched a new public awareness advertising campaign and online resource on http://www.viagra.com to help educate consumers about how to avoid illegitimate Web sites, safely purchase genuine Viagra online, and help minimize Viagra spam.

"Pfizer is taking these steps to help raise consumer awareness about the problems posed by illegitimate online 'pharmacies' and to directly address the source of these problems," Pfizer Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Kindler said.

"We want it clearly known that Pfizer does not send or support the sending of spam, which comes from Web sites that illegally use the Viagra name to promote and market unapproved ED (erectile dysfunction) products that may contain ingredients that either do not provide optimal efficacy or may pose health risks," Kindler said.

Federal Agencies Involved

Viagra was the first of what are now three FDA approved prescription drugs to treat erectile dysfunction. The other two are Cialis and Levitra.

Kindler said Pfizer is suing a number of Web sites for trademark infringement, dilution and unfair competition, and deceptive business practices, as well as filing dozens of suits seeking to seize the domain names of sites that sell fake Viagra.

The company said it is also working with numerous government organizations, including the Department of Justice, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prosecute counterfeiters and to identify and seize illegal products.

"It's often difficult for consumers to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate Internet 'pharmacies,'" Brian Lamkin, Chief of the FBI's Financial Crimes Section, said in a statement issued by Pfizer. "These Web sites are cleverly designed to defraud consumers and sell drugs that are not approved by the U.S. FDA," Lamkin said.

List of Defendants

Pfizer filed lawsuits against the following five entities/individuals:

1) Oriontech, a foreign entity, http://www.viagraxonline.com.

2) You Save RX, a New York entity, http://www.yousaverx.com.

3) CNR International, a foreign corporation, http://www.qualitygenerics.com.

4) Charles William Naron, an individual doing business as My RX for Less, http://www.myrxforless.com.

5) Doug Hollenbeck, an individual doing business as Generic Viagrapills.com, http://www.genericviagrapills.com.

Domain Name Actions

The company filed Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) actions against the following 25 Web sites:

1) http://www.12viagra.com.

2) http://www.1dollarviagra.com.

3) http://www.1viagra.com.

4) http://www.1viagrastore.com.

5) http://www.1viagrastore.net.

6) http://www.best4viagra.com.

7) http://www.buy-generic-viagra-sildenafil-citrate.biz.

8) http://www.buy-generic-viagra-sildenafil-citrate.com.

9) http://www.cheap-generic-viagra-online.net.

10) http://www.egenericviagra.com.

11) http://www.firstgeneric-viagra.com.

12) http://www.genericviagraforsale.com.

13) http://www.generic-viagra-online.com.

14) http://www.genericviagra.com.

15) http://www.genericviagra.info.

16) http://www.generic-viagra.net.

17) http://www.generic-viagra.org.

18) http://www.genericviagrapills.info.

19) http://www.genericviagrapills.net.

20) http://www.lowest-viagra.com.

21) http://www.shopgenericviagra.com.

22) http://www.viagra-discussion-board.com.

23) http://www.viagra-generic.com.

24) http://www.viagra-generic.org.

25) http://www.viagragenerics.net.

"Buying genuine Viagra online can be safe and convenient," Pfizer General Counsel Kindler said.

VIPPS Seal of Approval

But he cautioned that, "Before buying prescription drugs through the Internet, consumers should look for certification that a pharmacy is properly licensed. This can be done by searching for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal, or contacting your State Board of Pharmacy."

NABP Executive Director Carmen A. Catizone said that organization created the VIPPS accreditation program to "assist consumers in identifying legitimate online pharmacies."

He added that the "VIPPS seal assures consumers that the pharmacy is appropriately licensed and prepared to practice pharmacy via the Internet in accordance with the VIPPS program criteria, which include an on-site inspection of the pharmacy's facilities and a review of its policies and procedures."

A listing of online pharmacies with VIPPS accreditation can be found on http://www.nabp.net.

No FDA-Approved Generic

Pfizer alleged that Web sites often promote "Viagra" but send the consumer a counterfeit drug. The company also warned that some sites promote "generic Viagra" or "generic sildenafil citrate" -- although there is no FDA-approved generic version of Viagra.

The company contended that many consumers are misled by these promotions, especially since many people routinely purchase legitimate FDA-approved generic versions of other drugs online.

Pfizer said a recent national survey of 676 men age 35 and over showed 20 percent of men who purchase erectile dysfunction medications buy them online.

Pfizer said that sales of illegal generic versions of Viagra are largely driven through unsolicited e-mail, or spam, that promotes the purchase of these products.

Pfizer discovers, develops, manufactures and markets prescription medications for humans and animals and many other consumer products.

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