FDA Puts Pressure on Online Opioid Dealers

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The Food and Drug Administration has issued formal warnings to 53 websites which it said were illegally selling addictive opioid medications, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced Tuesday.

Websites like "AnonShop," "Remedy Mart," "TramadolHub," and "One Stop Pharma" were all subject to FDA warnings in late May, MarketWatch reports. The FDA contacted the nine networks that oversaw the websites, informing them if they did not discontinue selling the unapproved drugs, they would face drug seizures and injunctions.

"The internet is virtually awash in illegal narcotics and we're going to be taking new steps to work with legitimate internet firms to voluntarily crack down on these sales," Gottlieb said.

Drugs sold on the websites warned by the FDA included unapproved versions of strong opioids like oxycodone and tramadol. The drugs, sold under names like "Citra" and "Tramal," carry serious, potentially life-threatening risks if consumed improperly. Drugs bought from unapproved pharmacies online, the FDA said, may be misbranded, counterfeit, contaminated, or expired.

Gottlieb has warned that ads for opioids distributed through illicit pharmacies are a major problem on social networking cites, MarketWatch previously reported. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit routinely play host to ads for the deadly drugs; Gottlieb wants to work with the firms to help cut these images off.

The FDA expects to hold a "summit" with these and other firms in June. Gottlieb hopes the involved stakeholders can be brought together around the urgency of fighting America's surging opioid epidemic.

"This illegal online marketing of unapproved opioids is contributing to the nation's opioid crisis," he said.

This is not the first time that Gottlieb’s FDA has made a foray into the domain of opioid medication regulation. In February, the administration ruled that the controversial southeast Asian supplement kratom was an opioid, bringing official opinion to a long-raging debate.