June 10, 2016 -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration took action this week against thousands of websites that illegally sell unapproved and potentially dangerous prescription drugs to Americans.
The move was part of an Interpol-led effort called Operation Pangea IX that included regulatory and law enforcement agencies in other countries. The operation targeted the unlawful online sale and distribution of illegal and potentially counterfeit medical products.
The FDA sent formal complaints to domain registrars requesting the suspension of 4,402 websites, including 110 that sell the chemical 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) as a weight-loss product. DNP is widely used as a dye, wood preserver, and herbicide and does not have FDA approval for use as a drug.
A person in Rhode Island died in October 2013 after taking DNP.
The FDA also issued warning letters to 53 websites illegally offering unapproved and misbranded prescription drugs to Americans. Along with other federal agencies, the FDA also conducted screenings at International Mail Facilities in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, seizing 797 potentially illegal drug products to treat a wide range of conditions, including depression, narcolepsy, high cholesterol, glaucoma, and asthma.
"Preventing illegal internet sales of dangerous unapproved drugs is critical to protecting consumers' health," George Karavetsos, director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations, said in an agency news release.
Along with potential health threats, illegal online pharmacies pose other risks such as credit card fraud, identity theft and computer viruses, the FDA warned.