The US Food and Drug Administration, in partnership with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, took action against more than 9,600 websites that illegally sell potentially dangerous, unapproved prescription medicines to consumers. These actions include the issuance of regulatory warnings, and seizure of offending websites and $41 million worth of illegal medicines worldwide.
The action occurred as part of the 6th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), a global cooperative effort to combat the online sale and distribution of potentially counterfeit and illegal medical products. As part of this year’s international effort–Operation Pangea VI–the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, in coordination with the US Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado, seized and shut down 1,677 illegal pharmacy websites. The effort ran from June 18-25, 2013.
Many of these websites appeared to be operating as a part of an organized criminal network that falsely purported its websites to be “Canadian Pharmacies.” These websites displayed fake licenses and certifications to convince U.S. consumers to purchase drugs they advertised as “brand name” and “FDA approved.” The drugs received as part of Operation Pangea were not from Canada, and were neither brand name nor FDA approved. These websites also used certain major US pharmacy retailer names to trick U.S. consumers into believing an affiliation existed with these retailers.
The goal of Pangea VI, which involves law enforcement, customs, and regulatory authorities from 99 countries, was to identify the makers and distributors of illegal drug products and medical devices and remove these products from the supply chain. The IIWA is a collaborative effort between the FDA, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime, Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers, the pharmaceutical industry, and national health and law enforcement agencies from 99 participating countries.