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DEA shuts 4,600 rogue pharmacy sites

18 arrests

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The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last week arrested 18 people for allegedly selling pharmaceutical drugs unlawfully over the internet. Those arrested include the ringleaders of more than 4,600 rogue pharmacy websites, which are now all closed. In addition to the 18 individuals arrested, seven luxury cars, 2,400 cheques and money orders from individual customers, and several boxes of cash were seized.

The drug dealers received prescription orders over the internet, which were then shipped to the doors of many US citizens, sometimes without any prescription needed. According to the indictment, the drugs included alprazolam (Xanax), hydrocodone, phentermine hydrochloride, and promethazine cough syrup with codeine.

The drug traffickers averaged more than $50,000 a day in profits, according to the DEA, which named its investigation Operation CYBERx. Apparently, some of the drugs were sold through affiliates, who are increasingly scrutinised for aiding illegal drug sales.

The DEA-led investigative effort is the first to target “e-trafficking” within the United States. Rogue online pharmacies allow abusers to easily access pharmaceutical drugs from the comfort of their homes. Any drug abuser with enough cash could have almost any quantity of prescription drugs-with door to door delivery.

The arrests will certainly not put an end to illegal drug trading on the net. Daily mailboxes are bombarded with spam for shady online pharmacies, although most of these scam sites are easily identifiable: the sites hardly ever mention a (genuine) postal address or phone number, they change their URL with almost every spam run or have domain names registered in China or Russia. Often, the sites are hosted from these countries too. In Russia alone some 20 per cent of all drugs distributed are known to be fake.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a federal grand jury in the US indicted three businesses and 11 people in a conspiracy to sell $42m worth of counterfeit, stolen and illegally imported prescription drugs. ®

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