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Crackdown on Online Pharmacies Nets $41 Million in Drugs

Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest, have begun experimenting with selling medicines such as the erectile dysfunction pill Viagra online through their own websites to combat counterfeiting. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest, have begun experimenting with selling medicines such as the erectile dysfunction pill Viagra online through their own websites to combat counterfeiting. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of pharmacy websites that U.S. regulators said were selling illegal and potentially dangerous medications had $41 million of their products seized as part of an international sting.

The operation targeted more than 9,600 websites and shut down at least 1,677 and issued warnings to others, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement today. Many websites appeared to be part of an organized criminal network that claimed they were Canadian pharmacies, the FDA said. The agency didn’t name the companies or individuals involved in the sting.

Drugmakers including Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest, have begun experimenting with selling medicines such as the erectile dysfunction pill Viagra online through their own websites to combat counterfeiting. The fake online pharmacies the FDA shut down were said by regulators to be selling products illegally under such names as Viagra Super Force and Generic Celebrex.

“Illegal online pharmacies put American consumers’ health at risk by selling potentially dangerous products,” John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, said in the statement. “This is an ongoing battle in the U.S. and abroad, and the FDA will continue its criminal law enforcement and regulatory efforts.”

The effort, dubbed Operation Pangea VI, took place June 18 to June 25 during the sixth annual International Internet Week of Action. The operation involved authorities from 99 countries

Some of the targeted websites, such as www.canadianhealthandcaremall.com and www.walgreens-store.com, now bear the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations cybercrime unit’s banner to identify them as illegal, the agency said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net

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