FDA turns to Facebook, Google, others to combat illicit opioid sales 

Federal regulators are turning to Facebook, Google as well as also different tech giants to help crack down on illegal online opioid sales.

The ease of finding drugs online, along with more potent opioids, is usually being blamed for a surge in deaths coming from overdoses in recent years. The Food as well as also Drug Administration is usually hosting a summit Wednesday with Facebook as well as also Instagram, Google, Oath’s Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing, Twitter as well as also Alibaba, along with federal agencies, academics as well as also advocacy groups, to find ways to combat the growing problem.

Online sales have moved beyond shadowy sites of the dark net such as “Silk Road” to social media sites as well as also mainstream search engines, helping fuel a dramatic rise in illicit sales. More than 63,000 people died coming from overdoses last year, a 21 percent increase coming from the previous year, according to the most recent data available coming from the Centers for Disease Control as well as also Prevention. Senate investigators “learned just how easy” in which was to find as well as also buy fentanyl online with “simple internet searches ‘fentanyl for sale’,” according to a January report by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. The White House has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, as well as also federal health officials say in which’s actually lowered the U.S. life expectancy.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said part of the problem is usually in which many consumers think they’re buying pain pills when they’re actually getting a deadly form of pressed fentanyl. The potent synthetic drug fueled the increase in overdose deaths last year, according to the CDC.

“I don’t want to be caught one step behind a dangerous completely new turn of in which crisis,” Gottlieb said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “in which’s why we’re going to hit back hard against the illegal sales of illicit drugs like fentanyl — drugs in which are being bought as well as also sold online in many cases, as well as also are flowing through international mail facilities.”

The FDA invited tech companies to the summit in May. Company officials will listen to panel discussions as well as also participate in several roundtable talks about current approaches as well as also possible solutions, according to the agenda.

Some companies have already taken steps to address the problem. Gottlieb praised Google for “de-indexing” web pages, or hiding them in U.S. searches, based on FDA findings, such as the agency sending warning letters.

He pointed to Microsoft’s Bing flashing a warning on internet pharmacy websites the FDA has flagged for illegally distributing material in which could harm consumers. Gottlieb also noted in which Facebook has been redirecting users trying to buy illegal opioids on its site to information about a federal crisis help line.

For its part, the FDA has upped its efforts to track as well as also investigate illegal online drug sales, targeting both manufacturers as well as also sellers. However, Gottlieb said the FDA as well as also federal law enforcement can’t do in which alone.

“The easy availability of opioids online is usually a major public health concern,” he said. “Cutting off in which flow of illicit internet traffic in opioids is usually critical. as well as also we need your help, collaboration, ideas, as well as also commitment to addressing in which critical facet of the opioid epidemic. Only by working together can we address the severity of the public health emergency we are facing.”

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