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FDA participated in a global operation to combat the sale and distribution of unapproved and illegal drugs.
On Sept. 25, 2017, FDA announced that it had taken action against more than 500 websites that illegally sell drugs. The action was part of a global effort led by Interpol to combat counterfeit medical products sold on the Internet. The agency sent warning letters to companies that operate 401 websites, seized approximately 100 website domain names, and detained 500 packages entering the United States that were suspected of containing counterfeit medical products.
The 10th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), which occurred from Sept. 12–19, 2017 and was led by Interpol, included Operation Pangea X. The goal of the operation was to identify makers and distributors of illegal prescription drug products in order to remove the products from the supply chain. The IIWA collaboration includes efforts by Interpol, FDA, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, the World Customs Organization, the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime, the European Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers, the pharmaceutical industry, and national health and law enforcement agencies from 115 participating countries.
“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, in a press release. “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 US 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 US consumers and aimed at increasing the scope of our operations related to these risks.”