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Online pharmacy crackdown shutters 1,677 websites

WASHINGTON — US and international regulators have seized more than $41 million in illegal medicines worldwide and shut down 1,677 websites in an ongoing fight against counterfeit drugs sold online.

The Food and Drug Administration said it used federal warrants to seize domain names and post messages that people who traffic in counterfeit drugs face severe penalties. The message also offers a link to a site — www.fda.gov/BeSafeRx — that explains the risks of online pharmacies.

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The FDA launched a campaign last fall to warn consumers that the majority of online pharmacies do not follow laws or pharmacy industry standards and their products could harm or even kill.

The moves the agency announced Thursday took place as part of Operation Pangea VI, a weeklong crackdown organized by Interpol.

Officials said consumers should watch for signs a site is not legitimate: steep discounts, no requirement for a prescription, and use of spam e-mails. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found only 257 of 10,275 pharmacy sites it examined appeared legitimate.

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