International raids shutter more than 1,600 online pharmacies

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The U.S Food and Drug Administration and Interpol have shut down 1,677 online pharmacies selling counterfeit or substandard medication, or for selling drugs without appropriate safeguards. According to an announcement from the FDA, more than $41 million worth of illegal medicines were seized; 58 individuals also were arrested, according to CNN.

Some of the sites had slick or confusing interfaces, according to the FDA. The site Walgreens-Store.com was shuttered, for example, as it had no connection to the real Walgreens drugstore chain.

"These products can have none of the active ingredient that people need for the treatment of their disease," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told CNN. "They can have too much or too little [of the ingredient]; they can have toxic ingredients, and they can prevent patients form getting the actual medications that they badly need to treat their disease."

That analysis, which comprised more than 10,000 websites overall, found that 97 percent did not fully comply with state and federal regulations, 88 percent did not require a prescription, and almost half sold medicines lacking FDA approval.

Last fall, the FDA launched a campaign called BeSafeRX to help consumers spot shady online pharmacies.

An Institute of Medicine report published earlier this year urged the creation of a national drug-tracking system to prevent counterfeiting as well as new technologies to identify fake pharmaceuticals. In their raids, FDA and customs agents use handheld scanners with ultraviolet and infrared radiation to detect suspicious packaging and ingredients, according to CNN.

A bill passed in the House earlier this month would create an electronic drug-tracking system, but critics says its provisions are too weak.

To learn more:
- here's the FDA's announcement
- check out the FDA notice
- read the CNN article

Related Articles:
FDA launches campaign to warn about illegal online pharmacies
House passes bill to electronically track pharmaceuticals
IOM calls for data tracking, technology to combat counterfeit drugs