Internet Pharmacy Crackdown Shutters 18,000 Sites
|U.S. and international agencies shut down websites, seized shipments and brought court cases against thousands of illegal online pharmacies this week. This banner should appear on any shuttered sites.|
U.S. and international agencies shut down more than 18,000 pharmacy websites and seized $10.5 million worth of illegal medicines over the past week, U.S. agencies announced. The move was part of an annual effort to clean up illegal medical sales on the Internet, called Operation Pangea, that's in its fifth year.
"We are essentially overwhelmed with complaints on a daily basis concerning drug products that are purchased online," Daniel Burke, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration special agent investigating online pharmacies, told the Wall Street Journal.
"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," FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement.
Among the drugs the FDA, Interpol and other organizations found online was domperidone, which increases lactation in breastfeeding women, but is illegal in the U.S. The drug may cause irregular heartbeat, a stopping of the heart, or sudden death in breastfeeding women and their babies, the FDA said.
Law enforcement also found websites selling Accutane, an acne medication, and Viagra, the erectile dysfunction drug, without asking for the required prescriptions.
One of the largest companies targeted was Canada Drugs, which provides cheaper medicines to U.S. customers by sourcing the drugs from Canada, India and other countries, the Wall Street Journal reported. The FDA has always considered the business illegal, but appeared to take action only this year. The agency sent a warning to Canada Drugs, seized some Canada Drugs shipments and used a search warrant against a Canada Drugs subsidiary.
The Wall Street Journal also reported on court cases the U.S. has brought against two major online pharmacy founders. Overall, this year's Operation Pangea led to 79 arrests, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement said.
Officials placed warning banners on sites they seized, Customs and Immigration Enforcement said. Customers who want to know if their online pharmacy is legitimate should check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's listing, 9News of Colorado reported.
During the crackdown, U.S. groups worked with Interpol, the international police force; other international organizations and national agencies from 100 countries.