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A worldwide operation shuts down hundreds of illegal websites.
The FDA announced that it has taken on hundreds of illegal websites selling prescription medications, including opioids, antibiotics, and injectable epinephrine.
The agency shut down over 500 websites in a “major global operation,” according to a statement. The efforts were part of Operation Pangea X, which was in turn a part of the 10th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA) led by Interpol. IIWA combats “the unlawful sale and distribution of illegal and potentially counterfeit or substandard medical products on the internet.” The IIWA ran from September 12 to 19, and its goal was to identify and then remove the distributors of illegal prescription drugs.
As a part of Operation Pangea X, the FDA sent 13 warning letters to the operators of 401 websites, and they also seized about 100 web domain names. Examples of some of the domains seized included <buyhydrocodoneonline.com>, <canadian-pharmacy24x7.com>, and <buyklonopin.com>. The FDA also worked with other federal agencies to detain around 500 packages at International Mailing Facilities (IMFs) around the country. These packages were screened for illegal drug products, and any packages found in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act were denied access to the country.
Related article: Online Pharmacies: A Safety Concern?
“These rogue online pharmacies are often run by sophisticated criminal networks that knowingly and unlawfully distribute illicit drugs, including counterfeit medicines and controlled substances. Consumers go to these websites believing that they are buying safe and effective medications, but they are being deceived and put at risk by individuals who put financial gains above patient safety,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “The ease with which consumers can purchase opioid products online is especially concerning to me, given the immense public health crisis of addiction facing our country. Some of the websites sold unapproved versions of multiple prescription opioids directly to U.S. consumers. This easy and illegal availability of these controlled substances fuels the misuse and abuse of opioids. As part of a broader effort to target this illegal activity, in addition to the operation that we are announcing today, the FDA is also working on a comprehensive Enforcement Operations Work Plan that’s focused on combating the sale of foreign unapproved drugs to U.S. consumers and aimed at increasing the scope of our operations related to these risks.”
Gottlieb also added that the FDA has tripled staff at IMFs to enhance screening abilities, and they have doubled the number of cybercrime and port of entry special agents at the Office of Criminal Investigations.
The FDA provides tips on buying safely through online pharmacy through BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy.