LONDON-Criminal gangs are making millions of dollars out of the H1N1 flu pandemic by selling fake flu drugs over the internet, a web security firm said on Monday.
Sophos, a British security software firm said it had intercepted hundreds of millions of fake pharmaceutical spam adverts and websites this year, many of them trying to sell counterfeit antiviral drugs like Tamiflu to worried customers.
Tamiflu, an antiviral marketed by Switzerland's Roche Holding and known generically as oseltamivir, is the frontline drug recommended by the World Health Organization to treat and slow the progression of flu symptoms. GlaxoSmithKline makes another antiviral for flu, known as Relenza.
Sophos said many of the gangs behind the sites were based in Russia and the top five countries buying fake Tamiflu and other medicines on the internet were the United States, Germany, Britain, Canada and France.
Sophos spokesman Graham Cluley said a "worrying trend" toward stockpiling Tamiflu had already been seen in Britain -- Europe's worst-hit country in the H1N1 pandemic so far.
"As more and more cases of swine flu....come to light, it is essential that we all resist the panic-induced temptation to purchase Tamiflu online," he said.
"The criminal gangs working behind the scenes at fake internet pharmacies are putting their customers' health, personal information and credit card details at risk."