Google delists sites selling private trans hormones following UK government request

A person holding a hormone capsule.

Search engine giant Google has reportedly delisted two pharmaceutical websites which sell hormones after a UK regulatory body requested their removal.

The pharmaceutical websites were reportedly blacklisted following a request from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), meaning they cannot be found through the search engine.

The sites are reportedly used as an alternative way to purchase hormones, given the hefty price of private healthcare practices and the long waiting list for NHS care.

An operator of one of the sites, who remained anonymous, told tech publication 404 Media that it had not been contacted about the delisting and that Google were “not obligated” to do so.

“However, Google’s decision to align itself with a government determined to strip its citizens of access to safe and timely healthcare is… unsurprising,” one of the operators said. “In the short term, [trans people] will be left with no healthcare at all. However, they will find alternatives, as they always have.

“Whether in pre-war Germany or at the many points within the UK’s sordid history regarding the LGBTQ+ community, trans people – and indeed the LGBTQ community as a whole – have never been anything but resilient.”

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The MHRA reportedly sent two letters to Google according to 404 Media, both demanding the websites be delisted, under the 2012 Human Medicines Regulations.

“The domain is offering the sale and supply of unauthorised medicines to persons in the UK,” the letter reads. “The domain is not a registered pharmacy in the UK or, it appears, anywhere else in the world.

“The targeting of UK individuals in this way is illegal and presents a real risk of harm to public health in the UK.”

The domain names have also been labelled as “transfer prohibited,” meaning that users cannot transfer information to other domains.

A Google sign outside of a building.
Google said it was guided by the law when it comes to removing the names of pharmaceutical websites. (Getty)

Google told PinkNews it was “guided by local law” when it comes to regulating search engine criteria from country to country.

“Under our policies, we remove pharmaceutical websites from our results when national pharmaceutical regulators determine they are unlawful and send us a notice. When possible, we display a notification that results have been removed and report these removals to Lumen Database, to provide transparency.”

Lumen Database is a collaborative archive which compiles cease-and-desist notices, as well as other legal documents.

In a statement to PinkNews, an MHRA spokesperson said: “Buying any medicinal product from illegally trading online suppliers significantly increases the risk of getting a product which is either falsified or not licensed for use in the UK.

“Purchasing from illegal suppliers means there are no safeguards to ensure products meet the MHRA’s standards for quality and safety, and taking such medicines may put one’s health at risk.

“Instances of UK-based non-compliant activity relating to the online advertising, sale or supply of medicines are reviewed by the MHRA on a case-by-case basis and appropriate action taken. Enforcement options include removing or blocking the offending weblink, remedial intervention to bring the owner into compliance, or a criminal investigation and possible prosecution.”

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