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FDA Cracks Down on Shady Online Pharmacies

Dougherty & Holloway Oct. 7, 2016

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is the federal agency responsible for seeing that the medicines and other pharmaceutical products available to the public are safe and secure. As part of that important mission, the FDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, took important action in June 2013 against thousands of bogus websites that were unlawfully marketing potentially dangerous and defective drugs to American consumers.

International Efforts

In a press release, the FDA described its participation in Operation Pangea VI, an effort in conjunction with the sixth International Internet Week of Action or IIWA. Working with almost 100 other nations, international law enforcement and the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA with help from federal prosecutors in Colorado seized and shut down almost 10,000 fake pharmacy websites around the world.

These websites were essentially illegal Internet pharmacies to which online access is now blocked. Some are replaced by official FDA warning screens stating that the domain names have been seized by the government.

The international effort also resulted in the seizure of more than $41 million in “illegal medicines worldwide.”

Illegal Distribution

The sites were selling “misbranded and unapproved new drugs” that had not undergone the FDA testing and oversight given to officially approved medications. In addition, some were selling prescription medications without prescriptions.

Some of the sites in question falsely claimed to be affiliated with major national pharmacy brands or with Canada. According to the FDA, drugs bought from such sites could be “counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise unsafe” and could cause personal injury or death.

Not only did these sites sell dangerous drugs, but also may have used consumers’ personal and financial information fraudulently and to harass them, as well as sending out computer viruses.

Some of the drugs illegally marketed had names that included words approved by the FDA like “Viagra Super Force.” A consumer could be lulled into thinking this would be a safe drug because “Viagra” is federally approved.

Generally, the FDA warns the public against using pharmaceutical sites outside the U.S. that do not require valid prescriptions and offer prices “too good to be true.” The FDA website connects with state pharmacy licensing records, allowing consumers to check for legitimacy.

Seek Legal Advice

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dangerous or defective medicine or medical device, discuss the situation with an experienced product liability attorney who can advise you about your rights and the potential legal remedies you may have, including a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the situation, potentially responsible parties could include manufacturers, distributors and sellers.