Under a collaborative investigation with the Indian government, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Tuesday that it had found approximately 500 shipments of unapproved prescription drugs and combination medical devices.
The operation took place during January 28-30, 2020, in an international mail facility and targeted packages entering the US. It was carried out by divisions of the US regulatory agency, joined by the government of India’s Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence.
Findings included approximately 50 different products in 500 shipments, including medications intended to treat various forms of cancer and HIV, as well as opioid drug products.
Many of the shipments had been shipped through third-party countries to conceal their point of origin and avoid detection, resulting in higher dangers of exposure in non-regulated supply chains.
According to the regulatory agency, in fiscal year 2019, approximately 25,200 parcels containing more than 41,000 products were screened, with more than 38,000 of those products ending up detained. Out of these, more than 17,000 were destroyed, as drugs subject to the FDA’s administrative destruction authority.
Risks of illegal online pharmacies
In its announcement, the FDA stated that prescription medicines ordered from illegal online pharmacies, while being passed off as authentic, may be counterfeit, contaminated, expired, or otherwise unsafe, while consumers also face other risks such as credit card fraud, identity theft and computer viruses.
Information that helps consumers identify illegal online pharmacies is provided by the FDA here.
Cooperation with India
The collaborative investigation between the FDA and Indian law enforcement bodies follows an engagement of FDA representatives in India, in September 2019, which allowed for a series of meetings in New Delhi, on a joint initiative to combat public health crimes.
Balesh Kumar, director general, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence for the Government of India, said that such a collaborative exercise has the potential for long-term results.