Web sites that illegally sell unapproved drugs are in the government’s cross-hairs.
The Food and Drug Administration says it’s uncovered more than 4,400 sites that have been illegally offering unapproved drugs or prescription drugs that are misbranded.
Can be deadly
Included in the group being investigated are 110 websites that sell the chemical 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) as a weight-loss product. DNP is most often used as a dye, a wood preserver, and a herbicide but it’s not approved by the FDA as a drug. In fact, using it that way can be deadly. A recent FDA investigation into the distribution of DNP resulted in a guilty plea from Adam Alden of Bakersfield, California, for introducing an unapproved drug into interstate commerce. A Rhode Island customer who purchased DNP via the internet from Alden, among other sources, died in October 2013 as a result of DNP ingestion.
In this recent investigation FDA inspectors, and other federal agents, screened and seized illegal drug products received through international mail in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Nearly 800 suspicious packages are being checked. The FDA says preliminary findings show Americans had bought these unapproved drug products from abroad to treat a variety of diseases, including depression, narcolepsy, high cholesterol, glaucoma and asthma.
The FDA has asked the internet domain registrars of these web sites to suspend their access to the internet. It’s also issued warning letters to the operators of 53 sites.
The FDA says people should be cautious when buying drugs online. For tips on how to identify an illegal pharmacy website, and advice on how to find a safe online pharmacy, the FDA has set up the web site: BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy.
The action announced today was part of a larger investigation called Operation Pangea IX, a global effort led by INTERPOL to combat the sale and distribution of illegal, and potentially counterfeit, medical products on the internet.