Big Pharma follows cash-strapped seniors onto the darknet

The existence of an ever-present pool of people who struggle to afford medicines and online bazaars that can meet their needs has brought two new groups to the hidden underbelly of the internet: Big Pharma and cash-strapped seniors.

Bloomberg outlined the situation in a feature on what Big Pharma companies are doing to keep tabs on the sale of medicines online, including the section of the Web known as the darknet that is hidden away from search engines. In recent years, knowledge of the darknet, what happens there and how to access it has trickled into the mainstream, a process that has taken place on the back of news about Silk Road, Edward Snowden and multiple other disparate events. Such increasing awareness has broadened the pool of people who are turning to the darknet as a shopping location. 

"People are being driven by desperation to buy drugs on the darknet,'' Tim Ramsey, an ex-British policeman who now heads up operations at darknet intelligence service Centient, told Bloomberg. The arrival of prescription drugs on the darknet marketplace, followed quickly by people seeking nothing more than medicines they can afford, has shifted the makeup of the sector beyond the "narcotics, guns and hitmen" that were seen as defining its early years. "It's morphing, quickly, and now you have an older generation going there to buy medicines," Ramsey said.

The shift has prompted Big Pharma companies to start paying attention to what happens on the darknet. Some have turned to Centient for help. Ramsey and his colleagues buy medicines online and pass them on to the pharma company that holds the rights to the brand for testing. Centient treads carefully when carrying out this simple-sounding process. Its computers are stripped of any identifying information and packages are delivered to covert addresses. Roughly half of the time, the drugs bought by Centient are counterfeit or used as bait in a scam. 

- read Bloomberg's feature

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