FDA targets websites illegally marketing opioids — and presses tech giants to step up

The Food and Drug Administration outlined a framework for cracking down on illegal opioid sales on the internet. Hours later, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb delivered results: a list of nine online operators, running a combined 53 websites, to which it had sent formal warnings for having engaged in illegal marketing and sales of highly controlled opioid painkillers.

“The FDA is taking additional steps to protect U.S. consumers from illicit opioids by targeting the websites that illegally market them and other illicit drugs,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “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.”

The extent of the FDA’s direct enforcement authority is unclear, but the agency warned that companies that fail to correct violations outlined in the warning letters could have their products seized or face other legal action.

Lev Facher and Ike Swetlitz/STAT