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FDA, INTERPOL sting stops illegal sales of online medication

The FDA took action against more than 9,600 websites, shutting down 1,677, for illegally selling unapproved prescription medications. The crackdown was known as Operation Pangea VI and was part of the 6th annual International Internet Week of Action.

“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,” John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation said in a release.

INTERPOL coordinated Operation Pangea VI and monitored Internet service providers, electronic payment systems and delivery services to track illegal sales of medication. This investigation resulted in the arrest of 58 people and the seizure of 9.8 million medications.

Drug diversion often affects hospitals in another form, that of employee theft. Hospitals formerly had to resort to basic observations like monitoring the drugs that were handled by an employee who was acting strangely to see if anything went missing. Tracking drugs and employee theft is changing with the introduction of data analytics. Automated analytics systems track an employee’s drug use during the course of care and will flag anything out of the ordinary. These alerts can be shared with the employee’s boss to verify their accuracy and determine if action needs to be taken.

Electronically ordering medication or e-prescribing is a more common, secure way of ordering medications. In this process, physicians write prescriptions and send them to pharmacies electronically. This generally verifies that patients have a need for their prescriptions, something that may not always be true when a patient is ordering medication from an online source.

An ONC report documented the rise of e-prescribing in the US, with 48% of physicians using e-prescribing systems as of June 2012, an increase from 7% in December 2008. The percentage of pharmacies capable of receiving e-prescriptions increased from 76% to 94% in that same time frame.

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