It’s common knowledge that the Internet is rife with false information and potential consumer hazards. In order to protect consumers, the United States Food and Drug Administration, in conjunction with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, recently took action against more than 9,600 websites that illegally sell unapproved prescription medication. The agencies and law enforcement issued warnings, and seized websites and more than $41 million worth of illegal medications worldwide.
The crackdown was a part of the 6th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), a global cooperative effort against internet sales and distribution of counterfeit and illegal medical products. The website crackdown, referred to as Operation Pangea VI, occurred from June 18 to June 25, according to the Associated Press. The goal of the operation was to identify the manufacturers and distributors of illegal, unapproved medications and medical devices and remove them from the market.
A total of 1,677 illegal pharmacy websites were seized and shut down by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado. As part of the investigation, websites that sold unapproved and potentially dangerous prescription medications were targeted by the FDA. The websites, in addition to being harmful to consumer health, are harmful to consumers because of potential credit card fraud, identity theft or computer viruses.
Among the websites were many that appeared to be a part of a criminal network that falsely claimed its websites were Canadian pharmacies with displays of fake licenses and certifications. Many of the websites also advertised the medications sold as “brand name” and “FDA approved,” and used certain major pharmacy retailer names to trick U.S. consumers. Now, when consumers visit these websites, they’ll see a FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Unit banner that states that the website has been seized.
The FDA recommends that consumers report suspected criminal activity at www.fda.gov/oci.