FDA cracks down on websites selling illegal and potentially dangerous drugs

465 websites are set to be targeted for selling unapproved versions of opioid, oncology and antiviral prescription drugs

In partnership with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to target 465 websites that are illegally selling potentially dangerous and unapproved versions of opioid, oncology and antiviral prescription drugs in the U.S.

Related: The former Director of Johnson & Johnson's Global Brand Protection shares what it takes to fight counterfeit drugs


This is part of a global co-operative effort, led by Interpol, to combat the unlawful sales and distribution of illegal and potentially counterfeit medical products sold online.

This global effort seeks to combat unlawful sales and distribution of illegal and counterfeit medicines

Speaking on the matter, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, said “the sale of potentially dangerous and counterfeit drugs by criminal networks on the internet is a large and growing threat to the public health”. He explained that the illegal online pharmacies are often run by sophisticated criminal networks who knowingly and unlawfully distribute illegal drugs, controlled substances and potentially counterfeit medicines.

Gottlieb was particularly concerned about the ease with which consumers could gain access to controlled substances and prescription opioids online. He noted that “consumers are being put at risk by individuals who put financial gains above patient safety”. The FDA and their international regulatory and enforcement partners aim to aggressively pursue these groups that are putting patients at risk and step up their efforts to take down the enterprises and sites.

"Consumers are being put at risk by indidividuals who put financial gains above patient safety"

The agency’s strategy, in Operation Pangea XI, is to identify the makers and distributors of illegal prescription drugs and remove these products and their sources from the supply chain.

So far the FDA has sent warning letters to seven different networks operating a total of 465 websites selling misbranded and unapproved drugs to customers in the U.S. Multi day screening sessions have also taken place at airports in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Of the 626 packages examined, 794 products have been refused entry, with 62 products identified as being purchased from internet sites. Products have currently been tracked as making their way into the U.S. from India, the United Kingdom, China and El Salvador.

The FDA is working with different stakeholders to develop strategies to ensourage people to be safe and risk averse about any online medicine purchases

The FDA is working with other government agencies, advocacy groups, academic researchers and social media and internet platforms to find ways to limit the illegal sale of prescription opioids online and via social media. At present, the FDA provides consumers with information to identify illegal online pharmacies through BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy. Patients purchasing prescription medicine from illegal online pharmacies could be putting their health at risk from counterfeit, contaminated, expired or unsafe medicines.

Read More: Find out what to do when a counterfeit drug enters your supply chain in this report