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FDA seeks support of social media giants to eliminate online opioid distribution

04-06-18 Category: Opioid

FDA seeks support of social media giants to eliminate online opioid distribution

If the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal was not enough for the most popular social media site – not just in the United States, but the world over – here comes another indictment for Facebook. According to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Facebook, along with other internet giants like Reddit and Google, has failed to check illicit online sale of opioids. He said the internet firms were facilitating the sale and shipment of drugs by offering their users ease of purchase and various payment options, including PayPal, credit cards, Bitcoin, Western Union, MoneyGram and even gift cards.

Speaking at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta on April 4, 2018, Dr. Gottlieb said that social media companies, internet service providers (ISPs) and others in the internet ecosystem “aren’t taking practical steps” to find and remove these illegal opioid listings. To highlight the ease of illicit drug business, the FDA chief cited a recent congressional investigation that reported how trouble-free it was to purchase strong opioid fentanyl from an online seller and arrange it to have it shipped through the U.S. Postal Service.

As per the subcommittee report, the sales pitch used by the online sellers made it sound easy to purchase fentanyl or any other opioid illegally. It also highlighted that during the investigation, in addition to offering their buyers a range of payment options, the online sellers introduced flash sales on certain opioids, sometimes offering deeper discounts and discounted prices for bulk purchases. Additionally, the team also identified 500 transactions worth $230,000 with 300 people in 43 states and even identified seven people who died from an overdose after receiving drugs online.

Need for more responsible approach

While Dr. Gottlieb remarked that internet firms were reluctant to cross a threshold where they had to seek a broader policing role, he added that given the public health emergency due to the opioid crisis they need to adopt a “more responsible, collective approach” to eliminate illegal opioid distribution via the internet. He called on the internet giants to partner with the government to address the problem of opioid marketing in the cyber space. According to him, an absence of cooperation presents the risk to the nation in remaining behind while tackling the growing opioid epidemic.

The FDA now plans to hold a summit with the CEOs and other senior representatives of the internet corporations to identify the technological gaps and discuss possible solutions to the problem of online opioid sales. Informing the online purchasers of the fatal risks associated with the abuse of drugs and altering search algorithms to inform potential buyers to pages offering validated treatment programs were some of the possible solutions, the FDA feels.

Your partner in recovery

As communities across the nation continue to be ravaged by the opioid epidemic, Americans seem to get no respite with the epidemic claiming 115 lives each day. Opioid abuse continues to be a serious public health issue, with overdose deaths continuing to be the leading cause of injury deaths. According to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, of the 63,632 drug overdose deaths in 2016, 42,249 were caused by opioids.

Sovereign Health, a leading provider of mental health care and addiction treatment, understands its responsibility toward the nation and its troubled population. We offer our patients residential, outpatient, partial and intensive outpatient programs for problems related to substance abuse, mental illnesses and dual diagnosis. Treatment through our intensive outpatient treatment programs enables patients recover while continuing to stay with their families and go about their daily activities. In addition to our inpatient and outpatient clinical treatment options, we provide the patients with the required support that helps prevent relapse and learn important life skills. To know more about our addiction treatment programs, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our representative.

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