Oct 4 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said
it has cracked down on thousands of online pharmacies for
selling potentially unsafe, unapproved or fake medicines,
including the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and antiviral
The FDA, working with international regulatory and law
enforcement agencies from about 100 countries, said on Thursday
that it took action against more than 4,100 Internet pharmacies,
bringing civil and criminal charges, removing offending websites
and seizing drugs worldwide.
The move was part of the fifth annual International Internet
Week of Action, a global effort to fight the online sale and
distribution of potentially counterfeit and illegal medicine.
Action taken between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2 resulted in the
shutdown of more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites and the
seizure of 3.7 million doses of counterfeit medicines worth an
estimated $10.5 million, the agency said.
Homeland Security Investigations, which took part in the
coordinated effort titled Pangea, said preliminary results show
the actions also accounted for 79 arrests.
"Consumers in the United States and around the world face a
real threat from Internet pharmacies that illegally sell
potentially substandard, counterfeit, adulterated or otherwise
unsafe medicines," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a
"This week's efforts show that strong international
enforcement efforts are required to combat this global public
health problem," she added.
Among the targeted online pharmacies was Canadadrugs, which
earlier this year had been a subject of the investigation into
fake versions of the cancer drug Avastin that found their way
into U.S. oncology clinics. Canadadrugs denied any connection to
the counterfeit Avastin.
An FDA warning letter obtained by Reuters accused
Canadadrugs of selling drugs for unapproved uses and medicines
made by unapproved manufacturers, among other infractions.
Warning letters to other online pharmacies cited the sale of
"female Viagra," which does not exist, and unapproved variations
on well-known erectile dysfunction drugs with names like "Viagra
Professional" and "Cialis Super Active."
The goal of the annual effort, which involved law
enforcement, customs and regulatory authorities from 100
countries, was to identify producers and distributors of illegal
pharmaceutical products and medical devices and remove these
products from the supply chain.
The FDA said it targeted websites selling potentially
dangerous medicines, including those with active ingredients
approved by FDA for use only under the supervision of a licensed
health care practitioner or containing active ingredients that
had been withdrawn from U.S. markets due to safety issues.
In addition to Tamiflu and Viagra, the agency targeted sales
of domperidone, which was removed from the U.S. market in 1998
because it may cause serious heart problems or death, and
isotretinoin, previously marketed in the United States as the
acne treatment Accutane, which has been liked to birth defects.
The FDA is working with its foreign counterparts to address
the remaining websites that continue to offer unapproved or
misbranded prescription medicines to U.S. consumers, the agency