US government officials are trying to determine whether internet search company Google profited from displaying ads from illegal online pharmacies, federal regulators said Thursday.
The company said in an earnings filing this week that it had made an allocation of $500 million - equivalent to about one-fifth of the profits it made during the last quarter of 2010 - towards a settlement relating to a justice department investigation into its advertising practices.
Google and the justice department offered no comment yesterday. However, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration confirmed Google's advertising practices were under investigation.
According to Google, illegal pharmacies have tried to defeat controls in its powerful platform AdWords that sells ads.
Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies spent an estimated $1 billion on internet ads, according to research firm eMarketer, up 13.9 per cent from last year.
The firm estimates that ad spending will grow another 13 per cent this year.
Last September, Google filed a suit against a group of unnamed defendants for violating the company's ad sales policies relating to drug sales.