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Amid crackdown, FDA snuffs websites peddling counterfeit drugs

| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6:12 p.m.

American and international regulators have seized more than $41 million in illegal medicines worldwide and shut down 1,677 websites as part of their ongoing fight against counterfeit drugs sold over the Internet.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it used warrants to seize website domain names and post messages letting visitors know that people who traffic in counterfeit drugs may face severe penalties under federal law. The message offers a link to a site — www.fda.gov/BeSafeRx — that explains the risks of fake online pharmacies.

Experts say the Internet is filled with illegitimate, professional-looking sites that peddle drugs. The FDA began a campaign last fall to warn consumers that the vast majority of online pharmacies do not follow laws or pharmacy industry standards, and their products could harm or even kill.

The moves took place as part of a weeklong crackdown organized by the international police agency Interpol that ended Sunday.

Investigators visited the websites and used undercover IDs to order the drugs. They received counterfeit drugs that were not approved by the FDA. Some arrived with no directions for use and in strengths and quantities not available in the United States. Some also had different ingredients than the real drugs, which can be very dangerous to the patients taking them.

“You essentially have no idea what it is that you would be buying and what you would be taking,” said John Roth, director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigation.

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