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Viagra and diet pills are top of the spam chart.

Email filtering firm Clearswift's monthly Spam Index records that 42.6 per cent of the unsolicited mail clogging our inboxes in January was from companies touting pharmaceuticals.

The volume of porn-related mails has risen to its highest level since June 2003, but it still comes a poor second to the Viagra brigade, accounting for 22 per cent of spam.

The exploitation of the Net by the counterfeit drugs industry is a problem both for the legitimate pharmaceutical industry, and for the people being duped into buying counterfeit, placebo or substandard products, says Alyn Hockey, Clearswift’s director of research.

The consistent rise in spam sent from the pharmaceutical grey market suggests people are responding to the emails, according to Clearswift. This suuports the research of Andrew Leung, which concludes: "It might seem that the miniscule response rates would doom the spammer to failure. Quite the contrary, email is so cheap that they can make money even with almost no click-through."

It seems that the Net is a popular place to buy drugs: anonymity is a powerful attraction, as is the lack of regulation on the kind of drugs sold. ®

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