The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory and international partners this week completed the International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), a cooperative effort to curb online sales and distribution of counterfeit and illegal medical products.
The IIWA is a coordinated effort by INTERPOL, World Customs Organization, Permanent Forum of International Pharmaceutical Crime, Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers, as well as national health and law enforcement agencies from 81 participating countries.
This year’s IIWA, which ran Sept. 20-27, was called Operation Pangea IV, and focused on Web sites supplying illegal and dangerous medicines. The operation was the largest Internet-based action of its kind in support of the International Medical Products Anti-Counterfeiting Taskforce.
The goal of the IIWA is to protect public health by increasing awareness about the dangers and risks related to buying medicines and medical devices from Web sites, to identify the producers and distributors of counterfeit or otherwise illegal pharmaceutical products or medical devices, to target these individuals or businesses with civil or criminal action, and to seize counterfeit and illegal products and remove them from the supply chain.
“The FDA will continue to work closely with our domestic and international law enforcement and regulatory partners to protect consumers from unapproved and potentially harmful products sold over the internet,” said Dara Corrigan, FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, in a statement Thursday. “We will continue to aggressively pursue those who sell products which may pose a significant risk to consumer health.”
FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, in conjunction with the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and the Office of Enforcement targeted 997 websites that are engaged in the illegal sale of unapproved and/or misbranded medicines to U.S. consumers.
The FDA sent warning letters to the operators of the identified websites, all of which appear to be associated with the same individuals and corporate entities located outside of the United States, the agency said. As a follow up, FDA sent notices to Internet service providers (ISPs) and domain name registrars (DNRs) informing them that these Web sites were selling products in violation of U.S. law.
“In many cases, conducting illegal activities also violates ISP and DNR policies and agreements, giving the hosting companies the opportunity to terminate the Web sites and suspend the use of the domain names,” FDA said. “Of the 717 websites addressed in the warning letters, a total of 578 have been suspended or no longer offer pharmaceuticals for sale.”
FDA noted that it’s working with its foreign counterparts to address the remaining Web sites, which continue to offer unapproved or misbranded prescription medicines to U.S. consumers.
The agency encourages consumers to report suspected criminal activity here