Following an investigation by The Sunday Times (registration required), Google removed search ads that are related to addiction treatment in the UK.

It was revealed that there was an ongoing issue with middlemen bidding on the terms and receiving large kickbacks from the private centers where the searchers are ultimately referred to.  This is a practice called “patient brokering.”

Quite often, these companies will masquerade as impartial help lines, and won’t disclose their business model to the searchers that encounter them.  Removing them from the UK results follows an earlier change in the US.    The ads were removed by Google in the US around September of last year.

Patient brokering is illegal in a number of states in the US, but it’s legal in the UK.  Those who are critics of the practice say that this is one of the reasons for the increased cost of care, pointing out the high commissions paid out to the referral agents have to come from somewhere.  THose funds also help referral agents afford the steep CPC in the addiction vertical, which costs upwards of $200 a click.

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