FDA wants social media giants to help crack down on illegal opioid marketers

The FDA crackdown on opioids continues with a new effort targeting online illegal sales and a push to bring tech companies to the table to talk about the problem. (FDA)

The FDA’s latest crackdown targets pharmacies hawking illegal opioids online. The agency issued warning letters this week to nine online pharmacies that run 53 websites selling drugs with suspect monikers like “Roxycodone” and “Tramadol Generic.”

Many of the websites shut down one day later, but at least one—OneStopPharma.org—was still operating Thursday morning.

While legitimate FDA-approved pharma opioid makers had long quit marketing to consumers and even doctors, the illegal online pill-pushing remains rampant. And the FDA is trying to enlist the online platforms that host or display ads from the fly-by-night pharmacies.

Facebook and Twitter are among the digital and social media companies FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is pressuring for help. He has invited those companies, among others, to participate in its “FDA Online Opioid Summit” set for June 27.

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“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,” Gottlieb said in a statement announcing the crackdown on online marketers. The summit is aimed at finding “new ways to work collaboratively” with the social and tech companies “to address these issues.”

Purdue Pharma quit marketing its opioid drug Oxycontin to doctors earlier this year, while other opioid makers—including Endo, Teva, Allergan and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit—had all stopped marketing opioids before Purdue’s announcement, with some backing off several years ago.