FDA, DEA Warn Sites To Stop Selling Opioids

By Kelly Burch 10/03/19

The government agencies partnered to issue a joint warning to rogue online pharmacies. 

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The Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration have issued formal warning letters to websites that illegally sold opioid pain pills, including pills given to people without prescriptions. 

“As the FDA works to forcefully tackle the opioid crisis on all fronts, we cannot allow rogue online pharmacies to continue to fuel the crisis by illegally offering opioids for sale and circumventing the important safeguards that have been put in place for opioids to help protect the public health,” said acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless in a press release

Joint Warnings

Sharpless pointed out that the letters were the first of their kind because they brought the two federal agencies together. 

“Today’s effort is also noteworthy because while the FDA partners regularly with the DEA, this is the first time we have issued joint warning letters with them,” he said. “This action further strengthens the warning to the operators of these websites. We remain committed to using all available regulatory and enforcement tools to stop the illicit flow of opioids online.”

According to the press release, the 10 websites that received warnings were selling opioids online without following federal regulations. 

“The products, while being marketed as authentic, may be counterfeit, contaminated, expired or otherwise unsafe,” the agencies said in the news release. 

Other Types Of Fraud

Although authorities are most concerned about the physical harm that these websites can cause, doing business with them can expose consumers to a host of other issues as well. 

“In addition to health risks, illegal online pharmacies can pose other risks to consumers, including credit card fraud, identity theft and computer viruses,” the agencies warned. 

The letters demanded that the pharmacies stop selling products to American consumers immediately. They also required the companies to respond within 15 days detailing the steps that they will take to curb the violations that were outlined in the letters. If the companies fail to respond, they could face legal action. 

Issuing warning letters is a way for the FDA to intervene when a company is doing something illegal or harmful. Earlier this year the agency issued a warning letter to the drug manufacturer McKesson after it shipped "illegitimate" opioids.

Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon said that by working together, the DEA and FDA are able to increase their enforcement capabilities. 

“Issuing these warning letters is not only an effort to deter the availability of dangerous illegal opioids, but it is also a testament to the close cooperation between DEA and FDA,” he said. “We will continue to attack organizations that facilitate the sale of dangerous drugs, putting profit over public safety.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.