Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says that many of the illicit drugs that enter the U.S. are bought and sold online, including products laced with lethal doses of the painkiller fentanyl.
The Food and Drug Administration called on internet service providers and social media sites including Facebook and Twitter to police online sales of illegal opioid drugs more carefully, the Wall Street Journal reports. “We find offers to purchase opioids all over social media and the internet, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Google, Yahoo and Bing,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told a National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. The agency said online pharmacies are also offering to sell opioids over the internet. “Although the sale of prescription opioids without a valid prescription is illegal, the FDA continues to see these products in the packages we inspect,” said Gottlieb. He said that a lot of the illicit drugs that enter the U.S. are bought and sold online, including products laced with lethal doses of the painkiller fentanyl.
The push for internet firms to police opioid sales adds to political pressure tech companies are facing over concerns they aren’t protecting users’ privacy. Federal regulators are investigating Facebook’s privacy policies and 37 state attorneys general are demanding explanations after the company’s disclosure that an outside firm improperly accessed user information. The FDA commissioner said his investigators are pursuing inquiries related to internet drug sales and that “we’ve also had some notable take-downs stemming from this work. The easy availability and online purchase of these products from illegal drug peddlers is rampant and fuels the opioid crisis.” Gottlieb plans to meet with leaders of internet companies and advocacy groups “to identify technology gaps and new solutions.” These would include using search algorithms to let potential buyers know about treatment programs and the lethal risks of opioids. Facebook said its standards make clear that buying, selling or trading non-medical or pharmaceutical drugs isn’t allowed on the site.