Google settles probe into pharmaceutical ads

Google Inc. has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a U.S. government investigation into the Internet search leader’s distribution of online ads from Canadian pharmacies illegally selling prescription and non-prescription drugs to American consumers, a U.S. attorney in Rhode Island said Wednesday.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Google Inc. has agreed to pay $500 million to settle a U.S. government investigation into the Internet search leader’s distribution of online ads from Canadian pharmacies illegally selling prescription and non-prescription drugs to American consumers, a U.S. attorney in Rhode Island said Wednesday.

The settlement means the Internet search leader will not face criminal prosecution for accusations that it improperly profited from ads promoting Canadian pharmacies that illegally imported drugs into the United States, U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha said.

“It sends a clear message to both Google and to others that contribute to America’s pill problem that they will be held to account for endangering the health and safety of the residents of this district and to persons all across the United States,” said Neronha, who described the settlement as one of the largest in U.S. history.

The $500 million represents the gross revenues Google collected in ad buys from the Canadian pharmacies, plus the earnings generated from the illegal sales of drugs to American consumers, federal investigators said. The money has already been wired to a Department of Justice account, Neronha said.