The Food and Drug Administration's crackdown on dangerous medications has resulted in the closure of more than 1,600 online pharmacies.
The FDA also said in a statement that it took action against more than 9,600 websites, and seized more than $41 million worth of illegal medications.
The effort, called Operation Pangea VI, involved the FDA, INTERPOL and other international enforcement organizations, resulted in 1,677 online pharmacy websites being shut down between June 18 and Jun 25. It is the largest Internet-based enforcement action of its kind.
Many of the sites appeared to be an offshoot of an organized crime network that displays fake medical licenses and certifications to convince people they were purchasing legitimate, brand name products. Others tampered with the domain names of popular pharmacies, such as c-v-spharmacy.com.
The websites targeted sold unapproved drugs that pose health risks given the uncertainty of the ingredients.
Counterfeit medications could prevent people from getting better, or worsen their health. FDA warnings issued within the last year include alerts over fake versions of the cancer drug Avastin, and Adderall.
Online pharmacies should be licensed within your state, and can be checked on the FDA's website.
Consumers should be weary of pharmacies that allow you to buy drugs without a prescription, offer big discounts or spam your email.
Tips for identifying safe online pharmacies:
- Always require a doctor's prescription
- Provide a physical address and telephone number in the United States
- Offer a pharmacist to answer your questions
- Have a license with your state board of pharmacy.
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Source: CBS News, "FDA shuts down over 1,600 online pharmacies," June 27, 2013.