FDA Shuts Down Websites Selling Illicit Opioids
Since many states have enacted legislation that makes it more difficult to get a prescription for opioids, there have been websites selling illicit opioids popping up online. The crackdown on opioids is because the prescription pain medications are believed to have been the cause of the deadly epidemic of opioid abuse that has resulted in deaths across the country. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has shut down websites selling illicit opioids to keep these painkillers out of the hands of those who are abusing them. The FDA announced that they have shut down 21 websites selling the drugs that are illegal and “potentially dangerous, unapproved and misbranded.”
What Was Being Sold On Websites Selling Illicit Opioids
These websites were operated by four businesses, PharmaMedics, CoinRX, PharmacyAfilliates.org, and MedInc. biz. This makes a total of 70 websites that the FDA has shut down against this summer. These sites have been selling various opioids, including tramadol. According to an announcement by the FDA, some of the drugs being sold online were dangerous forms of pressed fentanyl. Fentanyl is highly addictive and can lead to respiratory distress and even death when too much is taken or when it is combined with other drugs. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that as physicians are prescribing fewer opioid painkillers, more of the addiction is feared to move to illicit sources, including those that are online.
The Opioid Struggle
The FDA said that of the 70 websites that they have cracked down on, they all were selling illegal opioids. Many of those drugs were not even the drugs that they had claimed they were and customers were ending up with pressed fentanyl, which can prove deadly. Many opioid users have switched to the more dangerous illegal drugs, including fentanyl and heroin. Those who are suffering with chronic pain and serious illnesses are struggling to get their prescriptions filled since physicians are limited in what they can write and are afraid of prescribing too many patients the drugs. Earlier this year, the FDA had ordered tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, to find ways to crack down on sales on these sites. Unfortunately, sometimes what they did didn't just stop the sale of illegal drugs. It also impacted the way people can find help. Ultimately, however, the FDA said working with legitimate sites is the best way to attack the issue and stop the illegal sales of opioids online.
Websites Selling Illicit Opioids Have Increased
According to Reuters Health, the online sales of opioids more than doubled during the two-year time-frame after these painkillers were given tighter restrictions through rescheduling, which made the legal prescription process much stricter. Hydrocodone combination products, which are the most popularly prescribed opioid products – were reclassified from Schedule III to Schedule II on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule in 2014. This made doctor-written prescriptions have stricter controls and affected the ability for a patient to get refills. Right away, the percentage of all drugs that were purchased illicitly in the country from sellers online started increasing. More dangerous opioids, including fentanyl, increased in popularity. Fentanyl had been the least common purchased opioid, but moved up to the second most commonly purchased opioid painkiller according to the researchers.
The Opioid Epidemic
According to the 2016 Survey on Drug Use and Health, 116 people died daily that year from opioid -related overdoses. During the year, 2.1 million people had some form of opioid use disorder and 42,249 people died from overdosing on the painkillers. More than 11.5 million people misused prescription opioids.