The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has taken enforcement action on 4,402 websites illegally selling potentially dangerous, unapproved prescription drugs to U.S. consumers. 

This was part of a global cooperative effort led by INTERPOL called Operation Pangea IX, the Ninth Annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA), intended to combat the unlawful sale and distribution of illegal and potentially counterfeit medical products on the internet. The purpose of Operation Pangea IX was to identify the makers and distributors of illegal prescription drugs and remove them from the supply chain. 

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Between May 31 to June 7, 2016, the FDA performed thorough inspections at International Mail Facilities (IMFs) in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Formal complaints requesting the suspension of 4,402 websites were sent, including 110 websites that were selling 2, 4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) as a weight-loss product. DNP is commonly used as a dye, wood preserver, and herbicide that has never been approved by the FDA. In May 2016, Adam Alden of Bakersfield, CA, pleaded guilty for introducing DNP into interstate commerce following a FDA task force investigation. A customer from Rhode Island who purchased DNP online from Alden died in October 2013 as a result of DNP ingestion. 

In addition to issuing suspension of 4,402 websites, warning letters were issued to 53 websites that were illegally offering unapproved and misbranded prescription drugs for sale to consumers. Screenings conducted with other federal agencies resulted in the seize of illegal drugs received through IMFs in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. The drug products screened at the IMFs indicated that consumers had purchased certain unapproved products internationally to treat depression, narcolepsy, high cholesterol, glaucoma, and asthma, among other conditions. 

Tips on finding a safe online pharmacy and identifying illegal pharmacy websites can be found here.

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