Federal agents in Baltimore helped lead an operation that this week shut down nearly 700 U.S.-based websites linked to the sale of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs as part of an international effort to upend the global online drug trade, the Baltimore Sun reports. The local operation, known as Bitter Pill, was part of an international initiative led by Interpol that spanned 100 countries and confiscated 3.7 million doses of counterfeit medications worth an estimated $10.5 million.
The drugs being offered on the websites included antibiotics, anti-cancer medications, weight loss and food supplements, and erectile dysfunction pills, officials said. Customers were not targeted by the investigation, in part because they are largely unwitting victims purchasing drugs they have “absolutely no idea what’s inside of,” said Justin Cole of the National Intellectual Property Rights Center. Some digital rights groups have expressed concerns about the Bitter Pill seizures and others like them, saying they ignore the due process rights of website operators. The groups also object to the categorization of domain names as property rather than outlets for protected free speech.