Interpol sting seizes $51 million in fake drugs

Seized packets of illlegal medicines on display at the Health Products Regulatory Authority Headquarters in Dublin after a Europe-wide Interpol-coordinated project called Pangea X. PRESS ASSOCIATION

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday said that, as part of a major global operation, it has taken action against more than 500 websites illegally selling potentially unsafe, unapproved versions of prescription drugs, including opioids, antibiotics and injectable epinephrine. The agency said it sent 13 warning letters to the operators of more than 400 websites and seized almost 100 domain names, such as buyhydrocodoneonline.com and buyklonopin.com.

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"These rogue online pharmacies are often run by sophisticated criminal networks that knowingly and unlawfully distribute illicit drugs, including counterfeit medicines and controlled substances", FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The 10 annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), which occurred from September 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.

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While Interpol says the global operation resulted in over 25 million illegal medicines and medical devices worth over US$56m being detained across 123 countries.

"I hope that when people see the images from today of the illegal products that have been detained that they will think seriously about the risks involved in buying prescription medicines online. This easy and illegal availability of these controlled substances fuels the misuse and abuse of opioids", Gottlieb continued. FDA inspections of packages suspected of containing illegal drug products at mailing facilities in Chicago, Miami and NY resulted in nearly 500 parcels being detained. The agency recently increased the numbers of inspectors to step up surveillance at the facilities.

"The FDA is proud to partner with our worldwide counterparts on this important operation", Commissioner Gottlieb said. The Agency is encouraging consumers to report suspected criminal activity to the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigation.

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