Image: Pills with computer (© Tom Grill-Getty Images-Getty Images)
A collection of international law enforcement and regulatory agencies went after nearly 10,000 websites selling prescription drugs -- shutting down 1,677 sites and seizing more than $41 million in illegal medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said today.

A lot of the sites seemed to be capitalizing on the interest many Americans have in buying from Canadian pharmacies, which sell many prescription medicines at deep discounts to U.S. prices. However, the FDA said many of the sites "appeared to be operating as a part of an organized criminal network that falsely purported its websites to be 'Canadian Pharmacies.'"

Instead of getting the advertised name brand drugs from Canada, consumers were actually getting counterfeits from other countries. Many of the sites claimed to have a variety of licenses and certifications and posted logos to create the illusion of legitimacy, the FDA said. "These websites also used certain major U.S. pharmacy retailer names to trick U.S. consumers into believing an affiliation existed with these retailers," the agency said.

Here are some examples of sites with names intended to dupe consumers (all now have a banner from the FDA showing the sites have been seized): canadianhealthandcar​,, and www.c-v-s-pharmacy.c​om.

Officials said buying from these pharmacies can be dangerous since there is no way to know whether you're getting a legitimate product or fake being sold by a crook in some far off land.

"Illegal online pharmacies put American consumers' health at risk by selling potentially dangerous products," said John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. "This is an ongoing battle in the United States and abroad, and the FDA will continue its criminal law enforcement and regulatory efforts."

Among the drugs seized in the crackdown were "Generic Celebrex," altered versions of erectile dysfunction drugs Levitra and Viagra, and the schizophrenia medicine clozapine. None of these versions have been FDA-approved.

The FDA also warned that on top of potential health problems caused by taking such drugs, using these sites also opens consumers to a variety of frauds -- including identity theft -- as well as computer viruses.

To help consumers identify whether they are dealing with an illegal site and help them find a legitimate one, the FDA created a guide: BeSafeRx: Know Your Online Pharmacy.

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