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FDA fights Web pharmacies selling unapproved drugs

Associated Press Modified: October 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm •  Published: October 5, 2012
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The warning letters to the three companies are part of a simultaneous crackdown on online sellers of counterfeit and illegal medical products, involving police and regulators in 100 countries around the world. The fifth annual campaign coordinated by Interpol, the international police agency, is known as the International Internet Week of Action, and also as Operation Pangea V.

Interpol said Thursday that Pangea V resulted in the arrests of about 80 people and the seizure of about 3.7 5 million doses of potentially life-threatening medicines worth $10.5 million. In addition more than 18,000 illegal pharmacy websites were shuttered.

"Because these criminals do not respect international borders, the international coordinated law enforcement response represented by Operation Pangea demonstrates that international cooperation is the best way to protect the American public from the risk of unsafe drugs," John Roth, director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigation, said in a statement.

Besides national health and law enforcement agencies, participants included the World Customs Organization and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, a year-old nonprofit group that includes Internet domain name registries, registrars, shipping companies, payment processors such as PayPal and American Express, and advertising service providers.

Meanwhile the FDA is warning doctors about the dangers of giving patients unapproved, counterfeit and unsafe drugs. In late September, the agency sent letters to doctors in 33 states, saying it had received information that they had purchased medicines from foreign or unlicensed suppliers that sold illegal prescription medicines. FDA directed them to stop administering drugs obtained from those sources.

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Linda A. Johnson can be followed http://twitter.com/LindaJ_onPharma