Trump Administration Announces Pilot Program to Curb Illegal Online Sales of Unapproved Opioids

June 8, 2020 Updated: June 8, 2020

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Commerce announced on June 8 a 120-day pilot program to curb the illegal online sales of unapproved opioids.

“The trusted notifier pilot program is another new policy tool in President Trump’s fight to end the opioid crisis,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

Under the program, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will suspend the domains of the websites found to be illegally selling unapproved opioids, according to a media release.

The administration will work with three website domain name registries: Neustar (.us), Verisign (.com, .net) and Public Interest Registry (.org) to curb the illegal sales.

During the duration of the pilot, the FDA will play the role of a “trusted notifier” and the agency will alert the registries about websites conducting illegal sales.

After being notified by the FDA, the registries will voluntarily delete, lock, or place the domain under hold.

“The Commerce Department is eager to work with our partners at HHS, FDA, and the domain name registries to remove a major channel for the sale of illicit opioids, which will help save many American lives,” said Ross.

The cross-departmental program was first introduced in the second FDA Online Opioid Summit in April last year and will help the country fight the deadly addiction crisis, according to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

“The men and women of FDA have worked tirelessly over the years with the private sector and federal partners, like NTIA, to fight illegal online opioid sales,” said Azar.

At the end of the pilot duration, the FDA, NTIA, and the three website domain registries will analyze the effectiveness of the program and its potential as a long-term solution to curb the illegal online sale of opioids.

Last year, the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had jointly conducted a similar program and issued letters to four online networks running a total of ten websites illegally marketing “unapproved and misbranded versions” of opioid medicines.

“We will continue to attack organizations that facilitate the sale of dangerous drugs, putting profit over public safety,” the acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon had said at the time.

The networks receiving warning letters last year had included Divyata, Euphoria Healthcare Pvt Ltd, JCM Dropship, and Meds4U. 

In 2018, the FDA took action against 53 websites marketing unapproved opioids.

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