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U.S. FDA joins Interpol crackdown on illicit online pharmacies

Sept 25 (Reuters) - Authorities from a record 123 countries, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have taken action against hundreds of businesses suspected of illegally selling medicines over the internet, officials said on Monday.

The international police agency, Interpol, said the action, known as Operation Pangea X, involved 197 police, customs and health regulatory authorities and led to the seizure of 25 million illicit and counterfeit medicines worldwide.

The Food and Drug Administration targeted more than 500 websites, issuing warning letters and seizing nearly 100 website domain names, including buyhydrocodoneonline.com and buyklonopin.com.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency has tripled its international mail inspectors and doubled its cybercrime and port of entry agents. He said the efforts are part of a broader plan the FDA is developing to intercept illegal drugs.

Operation Pangea X resulted in the launch of 1,058 investigations and the removal of 3,584 websites, Interpol said, as well as the suspension of more than 3,000 online advertisements for illicit drugs, including dietary supplements, painkillers, epilepsy drugs, antipsychotics and nutritional products.

Operation Pangea is an annual effort focused on illegal drugs that began in 2008 with eight countries. It is coordinated by Interpol, which is headquartered in Lyon, France. (Reporting by Toni Clarke in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)