Are All Canadian Pharmacies “Rogue” Online Pharmacies? LegitScript Thinks So.

While reading Benjamin Gluck’s Internet Pharmacy Law blog, I came across a reference to an “Internet pharmacy verification and information service” I hadn’t yet heard of: LegitScript.

I like the professed mission of LegitScript: to improve online pharmacy safety by offering a database that allows consumers to enter a pharmacy’s name and find out whether it’s legitimate or not. LegitScript apparently intends to make money by providing a verification seal to online pharmacies that meet its standards. I say “apparently” because LegitScript verification is currently provided free of charge.

All of which sounds fine — until you look a little closer.

You see, LegitScript claims ALL Canadian pharmacies are unsafe. Even the most established, reputable pharmacies — licensed and inspected by the Canadian government — get classified as rogue online pharmacies by LegitScript.

Is this because these pharmacies are actually unsafe? Of course not. Consumer Reports — not exactly a rogue organization — advises consumers to buy from Canadian pharmacies. And FDA officials cannot identify a single American injured as a result of drugs purchased from licensed Canadian pharmacies.

So what’s this nonsense about? And more pointedly, what is LegitScript really about?

Well, just doing a little Googling, I found out a few things about LegitScript.

I discovered that its founder, John Horton, was a White House aide for George W. Bush from 2002 to 2007, serving in the office of National Drug Control Policy. I learned that Horton had given money to the 2008 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the candidate most strongly in the corner of Big Pharma in its fight against Canadian drug reimportation. The company is based in the Washington, D.C., area, home of the Big Pharma lobby. All of which makes me wonder who’s funding LegitScript — and why.

As we’ve reported here before, Big Pharma and its proxies, like the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, have dramatically stepped up their disinformation campaign against Canadian drugs in recent months.

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Why now? Clearly, it’s because both John McCain and Barack Obama have promised to legalize consumer purchases of Canadian drugs. With public support for drug reimportation at 80 percent, how can you blame them?

So Big Pharma has got to spread enough nonsense — scare enough people — to bring those poll numbers down. That way, Big Pharma’s water-carriers in Congress can feel comfortable blocking any proposed reimportation legislation.

Who knows? Maybe LegitScript’s ambition is to displace PharmacyChecker as the verification system that Google uses to vet pharmacies for its ad network. If LegitScript were successful in doing this, no Canadian pharmacies would be allowed to advertise through Google — a major victory for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry.

I’m speculating here, of course. But I’m wondering if, PharmacyChecker, RxRightsCIPA, MIPA, IMPAC, Consumer Reports, and others who support the right of Americans to purchase drugs from safe and licensed Canadian pharmacies should band together to challenge this disinformation campaign.

What say you, friends?

Here are some other groups that support personal drug importation from licensed Canadian pharmacies:


About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

Rogue Online Pharmacies -

0 thoughts on “Are All Canadian Pharmacies “Rogue” Online Pharmacies? LegitScript Thinks So.

  • Hi Mr. Byrd,

    Actually, LegitScript is entirely self-funded. And we (really) don’t have any plans to charge pharmacies for verification.

    Let’s clear up something else. The FDA has made its position and reasoning on the legality of importing prescription drugs very plain. They say that they can’t properly evaluate the safety of drugs from outside of the US, and that in the vast majority of cases, the practice violates Federal law (specifically, the FDCA). People are free to disagree with the law, of course. However, it’s a little bit silly to imply that because LegitScript requires online pharmacies to adhere to an existing law, that something nefarious is afoot. We didn’t write the law.

    That said, a balanced discussion of this topic requires acknowledgment that there’s a very reasonable basis for the law. There have been several well-documented cases of “Canadian” pharmacies offering counterfeit or adulterated prescription drugs. (Google “RxNorth” and “NYTimes” for just one example.) This isn’t to say that the drugs are always counterfeit, of course; however, there are several cases where this has occurred, and it’s a completely justifiable basis for the law that is currently in place. (Believe it or not, not everything is a Big Pharma conspiracy!)

    As long as that is the law, LegitScript will continue to require online pharmacies to adhere to that and all other relevant laws and regulations. Interested parties should feel free to review LegitScript’s standards on our website, and contact us with any questions about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and the state of the law related to online pharmacies. There are some areas where the law related to online pharmacies isn’t completely clear, but the legality of importing prescription drugs from outside of the country isn’t one of those areas.

    Best Regards,

    John Horton

  • Cary,

    I think the major issue here is with FAKE Canadian pharmacies. The online “pharmacies” LegitScript tackles are only pretending to be in Canada. They are in E.Europe, Asia, etc. These bogus fronts are abusing the name of Canada and selling poison.

    The second issue is that pharmacies registered with LegitScript are overseen by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which does not have authority in Canada. Because of a big difference in standards between the U.S. and Canada, pharmacies to the North cannot be certified. If the U.S. gov’t or the next president wants to allow U.S. citizens to buy from Canadian pharmacies legally, that is their prerogative. In the meantime, the FDA barely has enough manpower to check the U.S. drug supply, it is completely unable verify the sources of Rx in Canada, Mexico, the U.K. or anywhere else. If the U.S. and Canada want to enter into a joint drug certification of pharmacies, that is something that will have to take place way-way above LegitScript’s head.

    You should also realize that a run for Canadian drug stores by U.S. citizens is not really good for Canada. It will cause a supply shortage for Canadian citizens, which will unfortunately be back-filled by counterfiets.

    If you think that big pharma is behind certifying online pharmacies, you haven’t been paying attention. They should be behind it, but so far fake Rx has run rampant.

    Do you own any online pharmacies? What’s your interest?


  • John and Garth,

    You both reference fake “Canadian” pharmacies, which I of course agree are a major problem. That’s where the issues with counterfeiting have arisen.

    The problem is that your organization groups these fake pharmacies with legitimate Canadian pharmacies that are licensed by the Canadian government.

    Disinformation groups have been trying to confuse the American public on this issue increasingly in recent months — and, unfortunately, you do this again in your comments.

    Show me a licensed Canadian pharmacy, approved by the Canadian government and accredited by organizations like CIPA or MIPA, that have sold counterfeit drugs or engaged in unsafe practices, and we’ll have something to talk about.

    As it is, you’re confusing rogue pharmacies with legitimate Canadian pharmacies — and since, Garth, you claim to be “paying attention,” you should know very well what you’re doing here.

    And yes, of course I have business interest. This is my site. I don’t own any pharmacies, but the pharmacies that are members of this site pay (or will pay, once the billing system is up) a referral fee for any traffic that leads to a sale on their end.

    Where do you plan to make money, since we’re asking?

  • Hi Cary,

    You asked for a specific example. Let me give you two., a website you have previously recommended on yours, was licensed in Manitoba, approved by CIPA and the other organizations you referenced, and found to be importing counterfeit prescription drugs that came from the Bahamas, before that the UAE, and before that China. Source:

    The FDA has also indicated its concern that pharmacies licensed in Canada are not actually shipping from Canada. In other words, customers incorrectly think that because the pharmacy is licensed in Canada, the drugs are from Canada and meet Health Canada standards. Example: A panel of judges in the UK recently found that the “pharmacy” (again, one you recommend) isn’t getting its drugs from Canada, but in fact from Turkey, which is a transshipment point for counterfeit or adulterated drugs (although not necessarily in the specific case linked to below), and are not even necessarily shipped through Canada. Source:

    I think your point was that a Canadian pharmacy license should be sufficient assurance that an online pharmacy shipping drugs to the US is operating lawfully, safely and transparently. The reason that’s not the case is essentially a loophole in Canadian law: if the customer and shipment destination is located outside of Canada, the Canadian pharmacy doesn’t have to adhere to the same safety requirements (set by Health Canada) as they would if the customer is located within Canada.

    This isn’t disinformation. The bottom line for us is simple: we’re a public service that helps consumers identify which online pharmacies adhere to the law and accepted standards of medical and pharmacy practice. I hope that answers your questions.

  • Troy Harwood-Jones says:


    I appreciated your article and your investigative journalism. Thank you.

    While it might benefit LegitScript (or those who fund its operations) to obscure the facts, they remain:

    1. Patients need access to safe and genuine medicine. The FDA is not the sole determiner of this quality in the world.

    2. Patients need help finding safe pharmacies on the internet. US licensure is not this sole determiner of this quality in the world.

    3. For years, millions of US residents have been buying genuine medicines from reputable international pharmacies.

    Anyone who genuinely cares about patients accepts that there is a moral imperative to help them receive their medicine safely. LegitScript’s failure to recognize licenses and health authorities outside of the US undermines its value and credibility.

  • Troy, thanks for your comment.

    I have decided to post about and Canada drug law as a separate blog post, because I wanted to add perspective from PharmacyChecker, CIPA and to the post. I’ll have a new post up shortly, which I’ll link to from the comment thread on this post.

  • Here’s the text of the LegitScript/CanadaDrugs blog post:

    When you’re on the right side of an argument, people with a vested interest in defeating you will try almost anything to win. So it is with the big-money opponents of Canadian drug reimportation, who have been pulling out all the stops to convince Americans that buying medications from properly licensed Canadian pharmacies is unsafe.

    The No.1 tactic that Big Pharma-backed groups are currently using is to employ clever rhetoric to lump licensed Canadian pharmacies in with dangerous rogue pharmacies — criminal organizations that operate in the shadows.

    We’ve obviously written on this topic before, but over the weekend it hit close to home as John Horton, former Bush White House aide and founder of a Web site called LegitScript, called into question the practices of one of our member pharmacies, (See above comment in this thread.)

    Horton specifically states that isn’t getting its drugs from Canada, but in fact from Turkey, which is a transshipment point for counterfeit or adulterated drugs.

    Remember what I was saying about clever rhetoric? This is a brilliant example of it, because it insinuates that is doing something wrong without a shred of evidence to support this insinuation.

    Here are the facts, as per and PharmacyChecker, the highly respected verification authority that approves pharmacies to be part of Google’s advertising network:

    * operates a fully licensed Canadian pharmacy.
    * is a marketing portal that allows consumers to place orders with licensed dispensaries around the world. When you view the detail for a product page, it clearly states which dispensary will be filling the order for that particular package.
    * works with companies like U.K. Pharmacy Services, which is based (and licensed) in the U.K. to fill orders for medications based in the European Union.
    * U.K. Pharmacy Services dispenses mediations under U.K. pharmaceutical laws and regulations that oversee the safety and efficacy of the dispensing practices and products sold to consumers. Turkish medications are dispensed in some cases, as is consistent with U.K. pharmaceutical law and in keeping with the standards of practice for U.K. pharmacies. This has been a common practice in the U.K. for many years, and is regulated by the British government.
    * PharmacyChecker ensures that all dispensaries are duly licensed in their respective jurisdictions and that follows guidelines to ensure the safety of online consumers purchasing pharmaceutical products.

    In summary: You have nothing to fear from, according to PharmacyChecker and according to the Canadian government.

    John Horton also mentions the case of RxNorth, which is an odd one. My understanding is that RxNorth was never charged with a single crime and that the medication lot number that supposedly included counterfeit drugs was never identified by the FDA. RxNorth was never shut down, either. In fact, it was sold to

    Andrew Strempler, the founder of RxNorth and a licensed pharmacist, has certainly never hidden in the shadows, either. He’s been a public figure for years, profiled in the New York Times, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal. He’s easy to find if the authorities have evidence that he’s done something wrong; you can track him down through his LinkedIn profile or his blog if you’d like.

    One final point: John Horton strongly suggests that Canadian authorities doesn’t particularly care whether the drugs its pharmacies ship to U.S. residents are safe or not. In other words, the licensing process that Canadian provincial governments use to approve and regulate online pharmacies is a sham.

    Does anyone buy this argument? If so, remember: There is not, to my knowledge, a single documented instance of a U.S. consumer being harmed by the wrong drug, or an adulterated drug, shipped by a properly licensed Canadian pharmacy. This is pretty amazing, especially when you consider that even U.S. pharmacies make mistakes from time to time.

  • Health is #1 in my books says:

    Is John Hortons plan not obvious, simply put you get rid or scare enough people from Online Pharmacies that can provide a cheaper product, you as a person with heavy investments in a company will prosper with the higher priced products. I guess America is the only country good enough to produce and sell to Americans, after all they are the healthiest in the world.
    If so then why are they spending the most. “It’s what the market can bare”

    If you can afford it will charge it…Right!

  • Legit Seems Not Legit says:

    Dear Mr Hortons & Co.

    By setting up a website and having couple people checking websites, you feel you have become a government authority to judge websites and provide them certification or you must have employed ex pharma affiliates to steal information about those websites. But before doing such things you must atleast consider few things in mind that you are nothing to judge NON-US websites and sending theri registrars notices to shutdown websites. Actually registrars are somewhat stupid guys and they dont go to the root of complaints and immediately suspend websites.

    But the fact is till now LegitScript only manages to threat and close few affiliate websites and the processors behind are still working having no effect, although LegitScript might have approced to close down them as well.

    Mr. Hortons I would suggest you to first look at those websites which are acting as processors (source) not the small affiliate websites which are nothing in itself and by getting them suspended may be your understanding with some firms work for you.

    As everyone suggests here that your business is only limited to websites claiming to deal in US teritory not beyond that but unfortunately you did not care before sending notices registrars specially Directi, what matters for you is only undestanding between you and some firms.

    I know that you will ignore this comment and continue your work but atleast think of small affiliates as they are not as wealthy as you.

  • is clearly a front for big pharma protecting the US market from cheap imports.

    Mr John Horton acts as the law , the judge and jury and assumes that US laws are applied worldwide.

    I would say that we should spread the word about this individual/website and the danger he poses to millions of americans that rely on online pharmacys for drugs they could not afford otherwise.

  • John Horton,

    Your employee on the phone confirmed, that LegitScript is a commercial organization. It is not a non-profit.

    So answer this simple question, what is your business model? Where does the money come from to pay your employees, office rent etc? Afterall, you don’t charge ‘legit’ pharmacies for your seal of approval.

    And then, i read the news that you shut down “rogue” pharmacies:{2FF1A80A-1BE1-45F7-8118-4AFECB5D2422}

    You don’t simply verify legality, you proactivly complain to ISPs, and domain registrars!

    Now does anyone have any doubts about Who is backing Mr John Horton?

  • Cary and Nick.. please update this wiki page when you have some more news.
    I already see some quotes from Cary’s article and this site as a reference.
    This wiki page first was made as a promotional article for legitscript, but the good thing about wiki is that people with all opinions are able to edit
    if they have a source to back their claims. Wiki ranks good in Search engines and many people will have the chance to find out the truth behind legitscript when searching for legitscript.

  • Kyle, we appreciate whoever posted the Wikipedia updates. Frankly, we’re not sure why a Web startup with no revenues or disclosed business model for achieving revenues has the level of “general notability” required to merit a Wikipedia entry. But that’s just one of many questions and mysteries surrounding LegitScript. We do see plenty of indication that Mr. Horton is extremely well funded — that’s one thing beyond doubt.

  • Hi Cary, Nick, Kyle, etc.:

    We just checked out the above comments. Please feel free to give us a call at anytime with any questions about LegitScript or our policies (the phone number is on our website). As we’ve mentioned before, LegitScript is a self-funded organization by its employees. While we have several products in the works for future release, it’s very normal for a new company to launch with financial support from its own employees. In our case, that’s where 100% of our financing has come from. We’re not a “front” for any person or organization.

    We know that we have different opinions on some issues regarding online pharmacies, the pharmaceutical industry, and we welcome that difference of opinion. We also don’t have any problem with legitimate concerns or questions directed our way, as long as they are based on a correct presentation of the facts. For that reason, we wanted to respectfully mention that the statements posted above and that have been made in some other places are inaccurate.

    We don’t check this blog regularly, so if you have any further concerns about LegitScript, or policies, or so forth, please feel free to get in touch with us through our website or via the phone number provided on our website. While we might disagree on some things, we’re happy to talk with you if it would help clarify things or address your concerns. Feel free to call anytime.

  • John,

    I think people have gravitated to this post to leave comments because it’s the only article on the Web that asks questions about what you’re doing. I don’t plan to write another post on LegitScript; I’m a businessman, not an investigative journalist.

    Whether or not your business has been supported by Big Pharma (and besides your own statements, we have no way of verifying the answer to that question), it’s clear that LegitScript is attempting to displace PharmacyChecker as the verification authority for online pharmacies.

    Were you to succeed, it would become much more difficult for U.S. consumers to purchase medications from licensed, legal Canadian pharmacies.

    Even giving LegitScript the benefit of the doubt and assuming you have only the best intentions, your rigid opposition to Canadian pharmacies (effectively, LegitScript is an extension of Bush Administration policy into the private sector) would bring hardship to countless Americans if you succeed in your mission.

    We hope someone in the media will take a hard look at the implications of your company displacing PharmacyChecker, and what that would mean for U.S. consumers.

    Then again, perhaps under President Obama, Canadian drug reimportation will finally become fully legal, and this debate will finally become moot. That’s certainly our hope.

  • More news from the press about big pharma lobby:

    Drugstore group spent $300K lobbying gov’t in 3Q

    Medco Health Solutions spent $434K lobbying in 3Q

    I lost 2 more articles by forbes from november with a lot more spent by giants including cvs.

    Cary, the only way to win them is either by turning public opinion against these mamoths, or by your own lobby in US gov.

  • Nick, I see that your entries have been removed on
    And guess by who?? John Horton personally. Looks like this wiki page is Horton’s personal “pocket article”..
    See the edit history and the discussion on wikipedia ..
    Is this wikipedia or All negative info has been removed.. Also reference to his blog has been completely removed

    I think these facts should remain on the wiki page.
    1) Horton had given money to the 2008 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, the candidate most strongly in the corner of Big Pharma in its fight against Canadian drug reimportation.
    2) That legitscript has Pharmacy Checker approved pharmacies in the black list. Also a reference to Pharmacy Checker wiki page which deserved one as well if Legit Script gets one..

  • why is everyone so worried about these unprofessional amateurs?? they get their pockets filled by big pharma that’s for sure, but even then they cannot afford to hire professional staff…

    here is one pf the biggest jokes, and these 2 sites were hanging on the PHARMACY blacklist for a while until they probably got complaints and realized their incompetence and idiocy.. who does the “rogue pharmacy” “research” for you, John.. a crew on drunk monkies?? or a bot made by some amateurt “programmers” based on Paint and Q Basic??
    How come these 2 sites and are

    Now nothing comes up with this.. but a few days ago these 2 webmaster forums on Russian were listed as rogue pharmacies “affiliates of”

    ( Someone from the community noticed the BS and even made a thread

    They sell prescriptions, they are for us visitors?? Do they even sell anything?? one of the sites is even .ru. They are simple webmaster forums.. just like digitalpoint for example..and many more..
    why don’t you include every other webmaster forum there , too? And also adsense and overture and all PPC networks?? They are the biggest “rogue pharmacy” pushers.. aren’t they??

    But ok.. if serious.. how did these 2 forums got listed as “pharmacies”.. what do they sell.. and any relation to US? Who checks the BS you list as “rogue pharmacies”, who is responsible from your crew?? Do you even have any idea and control of the offtoppic BS you might have listed on your blaclist?? Just as with these 2 examples..


    I wanted to buy some Valtrex for my .. you know .. through the rough pharmacy , but could not find the shopping cart:( or the product list.. nothing..also I don’t know Russian so well.. may be you know some other webmaster forums ?? On English. is there any on your lists??

  • “why don’t you include every other webmaster forum there , too? And also adsense and overture and all PPC networks?? They are the biggest “rogue pharmacy” pushers.. aren’t they??”

    Damn right:))
    Mr. John Horton, I would like to report the biggest “rogue pharmacy” pusher on the net.
    I see you have listed sites which are not pharmacies, but provide only info, as “rogue pharmacy” affiliates, just because they have a few links to some pharmacies.
    I was googling for a cheap zithromax pharmacy in NY last week, and guess what I found on the top as sponsored results. Also on the right side it was “rogue pharmacy” ads.. lot’s of them.. everywhere:(( I tried results page 1, 2 5, but they were everywhere haunting me 🙁

    I tried yahoo, but it was not better.. ads of “rogue pharmacies” everywhere..
    I will give you a hand..
    This is for google-
    ICANN Registrar:

    And this is for yahoo..


    Please contact the registrars , because judging by your standards, they are directly involved in promoting pharmacies that you have listed as “rogue”
    I swear I did see google promoting even phentermine:( from rogue pharmacies.
    Some teen girls could be buying it right now.
    You know, small kids use google and yahoo very often 🙁
    I suppose domains of these 2 “rogue pharmacy” affiliates will be shut down soon after your complaint to the registrat just like you always do ? Just like with directi? And millions of kids and US consumers will be safe??
    I’d love to see an update on your blog abut this if you really care about the people of the US.

  • oh, yes, a good start would be including google and yahoo in the list of rogue pharmacies. they belong there as much as many of the info sites you have included.
    will we see them there in a few days?

  • Why not close down the US search engines that allow people to find these rogue pharmacies , i’m sure if google and yahoo where chinese or rusian owned that’s what would happen.

  • Amazing that it’s been almost 2 years since this blog entry. How prophetic!

    Legitscript seems to have accomplished its apparent goal of undermining, and perhaps supplanting, PharmacyChecker. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have all cut PharmacyChecker verification, in preference for a Legitscript-style verification of only U.S. pharmacies by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. And Legitscript takes credit on their blog: “In February, Google updated its ad policy, becoming the first search engine to require VIPPS [NABP] accreditation for all Internet pharmacy advertisers. LegitScript assists Google in implementing the updated policy by monitoring sponsored search results for ads that violate Google’s policy.”

    The result: legitimate Canadian pharmacy lumped in with “rogues” and legitimate ads eliminated from the major search engines.

    The winner here? Not the American public. They are directed to U.S. only high priced pharmacies. Not the Search Engines. They lose millions of dollars in advertising revenue, and undermine their credibility by censoring the internet. The only winner is U.S. Pharma. High prices maintained; competition eliminated.

  • legitScript has no respect for the law’s of other sovereign states , steroids are legal in most countries , same sex marragies are illegal in nearly all countries on the planet , but it’s ok for US domain registrars and hosting companies to allow these sites for the rest of the earths population to view.

  • Paul Steinberg says:

    I wrote about the LegitScript issue as a result of my concern that this company is not only chilling free speech, but is taking actions in conjunction with the White House which could have a negative impact on the internet, and the current ICANN-run system.

    When my posting appeared on, I got a phone call and emails from Mr. Horton, in which he threatened to sue me.

  • I would like to buy from a Canadian pharmacy, but I do not want to buy if the drugs are actually coming from the Bahamas or Turkey.  How do you identify online Canadian pharmacies whereby the drugs are coming from Canada and you are getting the EXACT same drug that a Canadian citizen would get that walks into the pharmacy?

  • I want to expand on my last comment. Here is why I question these online Canadian pharmacy. I called Granville Pharmacy, which is suppose to be approved by several US states. I want to order Restasis and they say it will come from Turkey or India. I ask them, “Am I getting dispensed the exact same medication as a Canadian Citizen”. And they say they are mail order only for US citizens trying to save money. 

    I want to buy from a Brick and Mortar Canadian store that has an online operation that is selling me the EXACT same thing that a Canadian citizen would get. WHY is that so hard to find?????

    • You can buy Restasis from a Canadian source that is shipped and manufactured in Canada but it would be a bit more expensive as it is manufactured in Canada and products manufactured in Canada will be manufactured according to cost.

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