FDA targets illegal online pharmacies as part of global crackdown
- As part of a sweeping worldwide enforcement operation, the Food and Drug Administration has taken action against over 500 websites hawking illegal prescription drugs ranging from opioids to injectable epinephrine, issuing 13 warnings letter and confiscating nearly 100 domain names.
- The crackdown was part of a global effort known as Operation Pangea X and led by the international police group Interpol. All told, nearly 200 agencies took part to combat the illegal online sale of controlled substances and counterfeit drugs.
- During a "week of action" in September, FDA inspectors seized nearly 500 parcels at mail facilities in Chciago, Miami and New York. All told, Operation Pangea X has resulted in the seizure of 25 million illicit and counterfeit medicines worldwide.
Growing numbers of online medicine vendors has made it easier than ever to purchase drugs online. At the same time, rising drug costs could be pushing people to find cheaper sources for their medications, such as internet pharmacies.
However, many of websites these are not what they seem.
"With more and more people purchasing everyday items including medicines online, criminals are exploiting this trend to make a profit, putting lives at risk in the process," said Tim Morris, Interpol's executive director of police services, in a statement.
More than 95% of 11,688 internet vendors selling prescription drugs to U.S. patients, for example, were out of compliance with state or federal laws, or pharmacy safe practice standards, according to a recent progress report by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
This puts patients at risk of taking counterfeit, mislabeled or contaminated drugs, which at best leave them untreated or undertreated and, at worst, puts them in harm's way.
Operation Pangea X, which began in 2008 with just eight countries, targets the illegal and illicit sale of online drugs. To date, the investigation has resulted in 400 arrests worldwide and the seizure of over $51 million worth of drugs. Regulators from 123 countries have taken part, working across borders to launch more than 1,000 investigations.
Since Operation Pangea began, Interpol has seen "continuous growth of unauthorized and unregulated online pharmacies, which capitalize on increasing consumer demand worldwide to advertise and sell illicit or counterfeit medicines."
The FDA plans to continue its work, tripling its staff in international mail facilities and doubling the number of cybercrime and port-of-entry special agents.
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