U.S. authorities and several international organizations shut down 1,677 illegal online pharmacies that had been dispensing fake and potentially harmful medications this week and seized more than $41 million in illegal medications, FDA announced Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reports (Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal, 6/27).
The effort was part of a week-long initiative called Operation Pangea VI, which was organized by the international police organization Interpol.
FDA said it used federal court warrants to seize website domain names and post warning messages informing visitors that individuals who sell counterfeit drugs are violating federal law and could face severe penalties (Murphy, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/27).
At least two websites looked like Walgreen and CVS pharmacy websites.
FDA also issued warning letters to operators of hundreds of counterfeit drug-selling websites and those that sell potentially dangerous supplements (Wall Street Journal, 6/27).
Meanwhile, teams of international investigators visited online pharmacy websites and used undercover IDs to order drugs as part of the crackdown. According to AP/Sacramento Bee, some of the drugs the investigators received were delivered in strengths and quantities not available in the U.S. (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/27). According to Interpol, officials seized several types of fake medications, including:
- Cancer medications;
- Depression drugs; and
- Food supplements.
In addition, Interpol officials said 55 people have been arrested or are under investigation for illegally manufacturing or selling unlicensed prescription drugs (Wall Street Journal, 6/27).
John Roth -- director of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigation -- said consumers should be vigilant for red flags, such as websites that:
- Do not require a prescription;
- Contact through spam email; and
- Offer large discounts on drugs (AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/27).