Successes and Challenges in Fighting Rogue Online Pharmacies

Published Online: Thursday, August 1, 2013
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In cooperation with international law and regulatory agencies, the FDA has taken action against more than 9600 rogue pharmacy websites. The operation, which led to the seizure of more than $41 million worth of illegal medicines worldwide, was part of the 6th annual International Week of Action, held from June 18 to 25.

A number of the medications found to be sold illegally by the websites can be dangerous if not used with proper oversight and guidance. For example, the type 2 diabetes drug Avandaryl (glimepiride and rosiglitazone) must be dispensed with a medication guide explaining potential risks, while users of clozapine, a schizophrenia drug, must be monitored for potentially low white blood cell count.

Despite the success of the late-June operation, a report released by the United States Government Accountability Office on July 8 emphasized the challenges faced by federal agencies in investigating and prosecuting rogue Internet pharmacies, which are often run by complex organizations and based abroad. The report noted that the FDA and other organizations such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy have launched campaigns to educate the public on the risks of purchasing drugs online. However, these campaigns also face challenges as rogue sites often do a good job of appearing legitimate, making it difficult for consumers to distinguish them from above-board outlets.

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