An international crackdown on illegal online pharmacies resulted in the Food and Drug Administration shutting down more than 1,600 of them. The FDA announced the move in a statement on Thursday.
The FDA took action against more than 9.600 pharmacies in total and also seized over $41 million in illegal medicines. The effort was called “Operation Pangea VI” and involved several organizations, including the FDA and INTERPOL.
The operation resulted in the closure of 1,677 illegal online pharmacies between June 18 and June 25. The FDA considers the operation the largest internet-based enforcement action of its kind.
Many of the sites were described as “Canadian Pharmacies.” But they actually appeared to be part of an organized crime network that displayed fake medical licenses and certifications. Other sites used ploys like domain names similar to popular pharmacies, like Walgreens and CVS.
John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations explained that the illegal online pharmacies are a serious problem, as they “put American consumers’ health at risk by selling potentially dangerous products.” The medicines sold were not actually legitimate, brand name products, like the pharmacies advertised.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg added that the illegal online pharmacies affect consumers every single day. This is because the products sold may not have any of the active ingredients that people are prescribed. She added:
“They can have too much or too little [of the ingredient]; they can have toxic ingredients, and they can prevent patients from getting the actual medications that they badly need to treat their disease.”
The most commonly seen drugs are Viagra, Levitra, Celebrex, and Avandaryl. And while it’s difficult to tell how widespread the problem of illegal pharmacies is, Hamburg maintained, “We still do have the safest drug supply in the world.”
Visiting the seized sites will bring up a banner that displays the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations Cybercrime Investigations Unit.
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