From June 18 to June 25, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unrolled International Operation Pangea VI, an effort as part of the 6th annual International Internet Week of Action that targeted illegal online pharmacies. In conjunction with international regulatory and law enforcement agencies, the FDA targeted 9,600 websites carrying and selling unapproved and dangerous medications.

Out of this total, 1,677 websites were shut down, while others received regulatory warnings. The FDA additionally seized $41,194,386 of illegal medications.

In a June 27 press release about the action, the FDA pointed out that illegal pharmacy websites, also commonly called “Canadian pharmacies,” have similar qualities consumers should lookout for: false certifications and licenses, names and web addresses similar to those of U.S. pharmacies (CVS and Walgreens, particularly), and statements advertising that they offer “brand name” and “FDA approved” medications without prescriptions. Common illegal medications seized included Type 2 diabetes drug Avandaryl, “generic Celebrex,” Levitra/Viagra Super Force, and schizophrenia treatment Clozapine.

Ordering medications from any such institution, whose products do not follow basic FDA safety controls, is a dangerous drugs accident waiting to happen.

About Operation Pangea VI, the largest internet-based operation of its kind, John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, said in a statement: “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. The agency is pleased to participate in Operation Pangea to protect consumers and strengthen relationships with international partners who join in this fight.”

Along with the press release, the FDA issued a consumer update about the dangers of purchasing medications over the internet. As most of these medications are not safety to use, by being unapproved, having the wrong active ingredient, having a too weak or too strong active ingredient, or being the incorrect prescription when arriving in the mail, the FDA advises that ordering from online pharmacies has potential to be a significant health risk.

Along with tips for checking out a website’s legitimacy, the FDA, in its statement, provides tips to avoid purchasing dangerous drugs.