Authorities say they received more than 3 million complaints about the spam generated by the network.
This may be the largest spam operation in the world. Federal officials say the masterminds in Australia and New Zealand recruited spammers around the world with knockoff drugs coming from India and China.
Officials are urging caution before buying from drugs from spam-sponsored websites.
Those annoying spams can cost time and money. They clog e-mails making claims to improve your life. Now the federal government hopes to put a stop to some.
"We do think this is a very big operation. We hope that it puts some dent into the problem. But it may take some time," said Steve Wernikoff, Federal Trade Commission.
The Federal Trade Commission announced the Chicago office filed a temporary restraining order against several companies and foreign nationals that made false claims about products.
"This enterprise has been selling over 100 prescription drugs, such as Flomax, Lipitor and Levitra. They sell these names under names like Target Pharmacy and Canadian Health Care. They claim these are FDA-approved drugs and come from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Those claims of course are also false," said Steve Baker, Federal Trade Commission.
FTC investigators ordered products and found the claims for weight loss were not realistic and the herbal supplement for male enhancement included a drug that should have warnings.
"We had the Food and Drug Administration test these things, and they contain some amount of the active ingredient Viagra, sildenafil, which means that for some consumers these things can be a positive health hazard," said Baker.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has reviewed thousands of websites selling prescription medicines. Verified internet pharmacy practice sites are found to comply with pharmaceutical standards, like checking the validity of the prescription and consulting with patients.
The association could not find that the spam sites were connected to any licensed pharmacy in the U.S.
"They should avoid websites that offer medications without a prescription, they talk about lifestyle drugs solely, or medications to lose weight solely," said Carmen Catizone, National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy finds 97 percent of the internet sites offering drugs were operating illegally.