These days, you can find just about anything online – love, long-lost friends and relatives, a great pair of shoes and even prescription drugs. But buyer beware – what you get is not always what you think it is. Take the case of Internet pharmacies. They dole out potentially dangerous meds to people around the world, many times without requiring a prescription. But the U.S. Food And Drug Administration has had enough.
Two weeks ago, the FDA, along with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, went after more than 4,100 Internet pharmacies that have participated in the illegal sale of potentially harmful and often unapproved drugs to unknowing consumers.
Unsuspecting Consumers Often Turn To The Internet For Cheaper Prices, Easier Access
This year’s effort, referred to as “Operation Pangea V,” took place from September 25 to October 2 and led to the shutdown of more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites. This effort also resulted in the confiscation of about $10.5 million worth of pharmaceuticals worldwide. This happened during the 5th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA). This collaborative effort was developed globally to battle the online sale and distribution of potentially counterfeit, as well as illegal, medical products. The goal was to identify the producers and distributors and shut them down.
According to the FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, “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.” The efforts of the FDA and other agencies show the need for a collaborative effort and united front in order to fight the growing threat.
The problem is that many people go online to buy their meds in an effort to save money and time.
The Scope Of The Federal Action Will Extend To International Agencies
The FDA launched a national campaign called BeSafeRX recently. This campaign was developed to raise awareness of the dangers of buying prescription medications from possibly fake online pharmacies. BeSafeRx gives consumers the tools to protect themselves including information about specific drugs, tips for buying and using medicines safely and tips for buying medication over the internet. This site is a safe resource designed to protect unknowing consumers.
The target of Operation Pangea V was websites that were distributing unapproved and possibly dangerous medications. A lot of times, the medicines being sold on these sites have only been approved by the FDA for use while under the care of a licensed physician or are medicines that have been recalled due to safety issues. Consumers are not always informed of the side effects and possible drug interactions of certain medications and the outcome can be detrimental.
The FDA has targeted websites illegally selling these medications. Warning letters have been issued to them as well as notices sent to their Internet Service Providers and Name Registrars. The FDA is working with its foreign counterparts as well as various international law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL to combat this problem. This is a worldwide issue that requires the collaborative efforts of all members of the law enforcement community, both foreign and domestic, as well as consumers who should report any suspected criminal activity.