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Microsoft, Pfizer file suits against Viagra spammers

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Pfizer Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are teaming up to fight the slew of spam e-mails hawking Viagra that invade consumers’ computers.

The companies said Thursday they had filed a total of 17 lawsuits against defendants involved in the sale and distribution of the blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug.

Microsoft has targeted spammers before, but this is the first time the company has joined forces with a nontechnology firm.

As many as one in every four spam e-mails advertise Viagra, Microsoft and Pfizer said.

Consumers often mistakenly think the e-mails are sent by New York-based Pfizer and that the drugs they order through these online pharmacies are legitimate, said Beth Levine, Pfizer’s general counsel for U.S. pharmaceuticals.

“The consumer is most often completely unaware that the product they receive in a plain, brown envelope is illegally shipped from across the globe,” Levine said.

Pfizer filed a dozen lawsuits against Internet pharmacies and spammers, while Microsoft filed five.

Most of the defendants were targeted by only one lawsuit. But two online sites — CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct — were the subject of lawsuits by both Microsoft and Pfizer.

Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft’s Internet safety enforcement attorney, said Microsoft and Pfizer don’t know the identities of many of the spammers and of the people running the online pharmacies.

Several of the Web sites were registered to real people without their knowledge, Kornblum said.

Filing the lawsuits allows Microsoft and Pfizer to subpoena Internet service providers to help track down the defendants, Kornblum said.

Drug counterfeiting can put a big dent in the profits of pharmaceutical companies, said David Webster, president of Bethlehem, Pa.-based Webster Consulting, which works with the pharmaceutical industry.

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