International sweep gets $41 million in counterfeit drugs

Tight budgets for many law enforcement agencies globally make it tough to muster the time and resources to stay on top of burgeoning illegal online drug sales. But once a year many of them pull together for a week to take a whack at the problem and at least remind counterfeiters that they have not been forgotten.

The sixth annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA) resulted in the seizure of more than $41 million worth of illegal drugs and actions against more than 9,600 websites, according to the FDA. That included sending out regulatory warnings and taking some of the sites down. Many of those, the agency said, looked to be part of an "organized criminal network" that claimed to be Canadian pharmacies but were not. These sites also falsely claimed to have affiliations with some well-known retailers in an effort "to trick U.S. consumers," the FDA said.  

Ninety-nine agencies and organizations chipped in on "Operation Pangea VI," including INTERPOL. Consumers buying drugs online always run a risk of getting counterfeits that could be dangerous or products that just don't work. In the process, they may end up victims of credit card fraud or identity theft or may pick up a computer virus. "This is an ongoing battle in the United States and abroad, and the FDA will continue its criminal law enforcement and regulatory efforts," said John Roth, director of the FDA's office of criminal investigations.

This sweep comes only about 8 months after the last one. The October sweep netted about $10.5 million worth of drugs. The FDA on its own has stepped up actions against counterfeiters and those selling drugs illegally online. It has warned this year that some Botox bought by doctors' practices may be counterfeit. Last year, the FDA put out alerts that fraudulent versions of Roche's ($RHHBY) cancer treatment Avastin had been sold to physician practices throughout the U.S. Foreign versions of some other Roche cancer drugs were also found in the U.S. In April, a key player in the sales of the unauthorized Avastin pleaded guilty to a federal charge that he essentially covered up the sales to U.S. doctors.  

- here's the FDA announcement

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