Drug Spam Takes a Hit As FDA Shuts Down Over 1,000 Fake Pharmacies

canadian-pharmacyThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it has shut down 1,677 websites as part of its  6th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA).

The crack down, called Operation Pangea VI, targeted many of the infamous “Canadian Pharmacy” sites, know for promoting themselves through huge spam campaigns orchestrated by some of the world’s largest botnets and was a joint effort between 99 countries. Most of those sites are thought to be owned by an organized crime network. Some of the sites shutdown pretended to be affiliated with popular U.S. pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS through brandjacking and carefully crafted domain names meant to trick visitors into thinking they were legit.

“Illegal online pharmacies put American consumers’ health at risk by selling potentially dangerous products. 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. “The agency is pleased to participate in Operation Pangea to protect consumers and strengthen relationships with international partners who join in this fight.”

Some of the fake and illegal pharmacy sites stole customer credit card info, pushed malware, and committed identity theft, while many others actually shipped customers the drugs they’d ordered. However those drugs were unapproved and likely counterfeit, made in countries like India and China where there is little to no regulation and could have potentially dangerous filler materials in them. Over $41 million worth of these fake drugs were seized during the crackdown. While there have been no reports of anyone becoming ill as a result of taking such drugs, it’s highly unlikely anyone sickened would report it due to both the embarrassment of having to admit to purchasing fake drugs off the Internet and the fact that buying such drugs without a prescription is illegal.

Written by Sue Walsh


  1. Cass · July 10, 2013

    This is good news! However, when there is demand, there is supply. I’ve heard that in the US way too many drugs require a prescription, while in other countries you can get them with no prescription. If you have to pay a visit to the doctor (and pay for this) just to get a prescription, I guess you will be looking for alternatives. So maybe the problem starts with the overregulation of which drug is a prescription drug and which isn’t. I am not saying that we must support illegal activities but probably there is something wrong with the way legal activities are defined, when drugs are considered.

  2. Dorothy · July 17, 2013

    These people deserve to go to jail. Just imagine how many people they have fooled! And what if some of these pharmacies are also operating illegally–that is, they’re definitely selling the drugs on the side. Just think about how many people have their lives compromised. These things are surely unforgivable, and no one should go easy on them.

  3. Ann Michaels · July 22, 2013

    The Canadian Pharmacy spam is still alive!!! I admit, I used to get quite a lot of these so-called pharmacy spam. I did not pay any attention to them, though, because I knew what they were. I immediately deleted them from my Inbox. Just recently, I’ve learned how to filter the messages that gets into my Inbox. So now, all nonsense – like the pharmacy or drug spam – goes straight into the Trash!…The authorities can do all the shutting down that they can, but if email users are not well-educated and updated about spam, we will keep losing the battle.

  4. Karen · July 30, 2013

    That’s good to hear, Ann! What did you exactly do? What types of words did you filter? I am using Gmail, and so far, it’s doing a real good job filtering drug-related spam mails. But I don’t know how long it’s going to be effective as new methods of spamming are gaining more popularity these days.

  5. Ann Michaels · July 30, 2013

    @Karen: I’m using Gmail, too, so I guess we use pretty much the same way of filtering emails. There are emails that go directly into the Trash because I identified previous emails with similar words as trash and/or spam. I usually get a lot of marketing and promotional emails, even those that I did not register with, so that’s what I target. I also filtered all drug-related emails. Any email with the words pharmacy or drug/s in it goes straight to the trash or spam box. My inbox has been quiet in terms of these “trash”, but like what you said, spammers develop new methods every now and then, so I guess I’ll have to keep paying careful attention to every unfamiliar email I get!

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