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16-10-2012 | Article

FDA, international crime-stoppers bust online pharmacies


FDA press release

medwireNews: As in the days of Elliott Ness and the Untouchables, the feds are cracking down on crooks. Only this time, the criminals are bootlegging drugs rather than whiskey.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), working with regulatory and law-enforcement authorities, has taken action against more than 4100 bogus online drug stores just a few days after it issued warnings to consumers about illegal online pharmacies, the agency announced.

The seizures are part of an internationally coordinated effort dubbed "Operation Pangea V," part of the International Internet Week of Action, in which regulators and police from 100 countries shut down illegal, internet-based drug stores with a variety of tactics, including civil and criminal charges, seizing illegal drugs, and taking down deceptive or fraudulent websites hawking drugs to unsuspecting consumers.

This year's crackdown resulted in the closing of more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites worldwide, and seizure of approximately $ 10.5 million worth of drugs, the FDA says.

The seizures are part of the fifth annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), a global cooperative effort to combat the online sale and distribution of potentially counterfeit and illegal medical products.

"Consumers in the United States and around the world face a real threat from Internet pharmacies that illegally sell potentially substandard, counterfeit, adulterated or otherwise unsafe medicines," said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. "This week's efforts show that strong international enforcement efforts are required to combat this global public health problem. The FDA is committed to joining forces to protect consumers from the risks these websites present."

Among the illegal medicines identified through the operation were domperidone, isotretinoin, tamiflu, and viagra.

The FDA coordinated the efforts of this year's Operation Pangea V, including screening all drug products received through the international mail facilities during the IIWA. Preliminary findings showed that certain products from abroad, such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and other drugs to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure, were on the way to US consumers. Many of those products can pose health risks if taken without the supervision of a health care practitioner or if the products have been removed from the market for safety reasons.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter