The opioid crisis is far from over. To help combat illicit internet drug sales, we call for enhanced action by internet stakeholders.
Our recently released Rogue Rx: Activity Report takes a hard look at illegal online drug sales. During the first half of 2019, we identified more than 1,500 websites operating out of compliance with pharmacy laws or patient safety standards. Shockingly, nearly a third of these websites offered or facilitated the sale of opioids or other controlled substances. While we applaud the voluntary actions taken by internet stakeholders thus far, we call on these same stakeholders to take additional proactive measures to help halt the deadly online drug trade.
Since the onset of the opioid crisis, the internet community has stepped up to protect consumers from illegal online drug sellers. Bing has led the charge: it expanded its consumer warning banners from websites that received FDA warning letters to all websites on NABP’s Not Recommended List. Bing also blocked all rogue online pharmacies referenced in FDA’s internet pharmacy warning letters from its US search results. Meanwhile, Google has begun to deindex illegally operating websites named in FDA warning letters. Facebook and Instagram now redirect users looking for opioids to a government helpline. Finally, Neustar – a domain name registry – suspended multiple .biz and .us domain names linked to the illegal sale of opioids and took independent voluntary steps to begin policing other top-level domains that it administers.
While these are important first steps, the private sector can and must do more. NABP proposes the following:
- We encourage search engines to deindex websites belonging to known illegal online drug sellers. By removing known rogue actors from organic search results, search engines would serve as an important chokepoint.
- We ask that internet platforms report to law enforcement those entities that seek to advertise the illegal online sale of controlled substances. By giving law enforcement the data it needs to prosecute bad actors, internet platforms would help bring these illegal online drug sellers to account, while deterring others from advertising controlled substances online.
NABP supports these proactive steps because they would protect the public health and save lives. We would be happy to assist internet stakeholders who wish to take meaningful action to stop illegal online drug sales. To learn more, please read our Rogue Rx: Activity Report.