Health Care

FDA commissioner urges social media sites, internet providers to curb illegal opioid sales

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Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wants social media companies and internet service providers to crack down on illegal sales of opioids on their platforms.

“I’m concerned that social media companies, internet service providers (ISP) firms that host websites, and others in the internet ecosystem haven’t been proactive enough in rooting out these illegal offers to distribute opioids from their respective platforms,” Gottlieb will say Wednesday evening at the annual National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, according to his prepared remarks.

“I think we can work with them to do much more to address this public health danger,” Gottlieb will add.

The Trump administration and Congress have been examining measures to curb the opioid epidemic, which shows no signs of slowing down. Deaths involving opioids increased nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FDA helps inspect packages to see if they contain illicit drugs and, according to Gottlieb, continues to discover opioid painkillers, although they are illegal to buy without a prescription. He also said offers to buy opioids are widespread across social media and the internet.

Gottlieb will tell the summit’s crowd that there hasn’t been “meaningful, voluntary actions” from internet firms to remove illegal listings to purchase opioids.

“I know that Internet firms are reluctant to cross a threshold; where they could find themselves taking on a broader policing role. But these are insidious threats being propagated on these web platforms,” Gottlieb plans to say.

To help, the FDA will host a summit with CEOs and other internet stakeholders, academics and advocacy groups to find technology gaps and craft solutions. Gottlieb said the agency will ask for those involved in the summit to commit to reducing the availability of opioids online and to meet again in a year to see how far along the effort has come.


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