- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday warned online networks that run more than 50 websites that they must stop marketing unapproved or misbranded opioid medications.

Nine targeted networks have 10 days to respond to the letters, though FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said companies that don’t clean up their act will be forced to forfeit their products or operations.

Dr. Gottlieb said efforts to rein in the sale of addictive drugs online is a key part of the fight against the opioid crisis, which is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year.

“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,” he said.

The agency has invited internet operators and academics to a June 27 summit to discuss ways to crack down on illicit narcotic sales online.

Dr. Gottlieb said unauthorized sales of drugs like oxycodone are particularly dangerous because the FDA-approved versions of the drugs include stringent “black box” warnings about the risks of addiction. Consumers who obtain their drugs from nefarious online actors also don’t know what they’re getting.

“Opioids bought online may be counterfeit and could contain other dangerous substances,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “Consumers who use these products take significant risk with their lives.”

The commissioner said Tuesday’s letters to networks with names like AnonShop, Eassybuyonline and One Stop Pharma are the first in a series of steps the FDA will take to crack down on illicit opioid sales online or through the mail.

A 2015 study by Carnegie Mellon University said revenues from online illicit drug sales grew from between $15-$17 million in 2012 to $150-$180 million in 2015.

Also, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation said it is scarily easy for Americans to buy fentanyl — a deadly synthetic opioid — from clandestine labs in China with little more than a Google search and a mailing address.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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