In collaboration with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, the FDA took legal action against more than 4,100 internet pharmacies via criminal charges, seizure of $10.5 million worth of pharmaceuticals, and removal of 18,000 websites.
Among the illegal medicines identified through the Operation Pangea V were:
- Domperidone: This medicine was removed from the United States market in 1998 because it may cause serious adverse effects, including irregular heartbeat, stopping of the heart, or sudden death. These dangers could convey to the nursing baby of breastfeeding women, who may be using domperidone to try increase milk production (which is not an approved use).
- Isotretinoin (previously marketed as Accutane in the United States): This medicine is used to treat severe nodular acne and carries significant potential risks, including severe birth defects if pregnancy occurs while using this medicine. To minimize potential risks to consumers, FDA-approved isotretinoin capsules are only available through restricted distribution in the United States.
- Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate): This medicine, which is used to treat the flu, is often sold online as “generic Tamiflu.” However, there is no FDA-approved generic version of Tamiflu. Previous FDA tests found that fraudulent versions of “generic Tamiflu” contained the wrong active ingredient, which would not be effective in treating flu. In these cases, the wrong active ingredient was similar to penicillin and may cause a severe allergic reaction, including a sudden, potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, in consumers allergic to penicillin products.
- Viagra (sildenafil citrate): This medicine is used to treat erectile dysfunction. Due to its vasodilation effects, sildenafil citrate should not be used by consumers with certain heart conditions. Consumers taking this medicine without the supervision of a health care professional may not learn about potential drug interactions, such as increased blood pressure lowering effects of organic nitrates when taken with sildenafil citrate.
FDA launched a national campaign to educate people about the dangers of purchasing prescription medications online. “BeSafeRX, know your Online Pharmacy” is the name of the project.
John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation, concludes:
“Internet pharmacies that illegally sell unapproved, counterfeit, or potentially adulterated or substandard drugs are an inherently international crime problem. The FDA is pleased to work with INTERPOL, the international police agency, to fight this problem. 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.”
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