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  1. News & Events for Human Drugs

Online Opioid Summits

Opioid addiction and abuse is an immense public health crisis and addressing it is one of FDA’s highest priorities. In 2016, opioids killed more than 42,000 people – surpassing even the number of deaths resulting from traffic accidents in the United States – and there was a 13% increase in 2017 to 47,600 deaths.

Given the severity of the public health emergency we are facing, the easy availability of illicit opioids online is a major public health concern:

  • According to a 2015 study by Carnegie Mellon University, revenues from online illicit drug sales grew from between $15-17 million in 2012 to $150-180 million in 2015.
  • A January 2018 report by the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations provided compelling evidence concerning the ease with which average Americans can now purchase illicit opioids online.
  • Research by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy found that when searching online for prescription opioids across the three major search engines, nearly 91 percent of the first search results led users to an illegal online drug seller offering prescription opioids. 

One critical step to address this public health emergency is the adoption of a far more proactive approach by internet stakeholders to crack down on internet traffic in illicit drugs. Illegal online pharmacies, drug dealers, and other criminals are increasingly using the internet to further their illicit distribution of opioids, where their risk of detection and repercussions is significantly reduced.

In June 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., invited internet stakeholders, government entities, academic researchers, and advocacy groups to attend the first Online Opioid Summit to discuss ways to collaboratively take stronger action in combatting the opioid crisis by reducing the availability of illicit opioids online. 

2019 Summit

FDA hosted a second summit on April 2, 2019, to continue building upon our successes and finding innovative solutions to protect the American public from opioids that are illegally being offered for sale online. The focus of the summit was collaboration with registries and registrars. Since these entities play a role in the registration of internet domain names, they are a critical part of the solution. This meeting was a closed session.

Summit Agenda (PDF - 134KB)
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Remarks 

2018 Summit

2018 Summit agenda (PDF - 128 KB)
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., remarks


Invitations were sent to stakeholders who have the ability to make the most significant impact on reducing illegal online opioid sales and contribute to transformational changes in this space. Invitees include senior executives from major search engines, social media platforms, domain name registries and registrars, online marketplaces as well as advocacy groups, other government agencies, and academic researchers with expertise in this topic.


Internet stakeholders and other professionals involved in preventing illegal online opioid sales may contact FDA by emailing FDAInternetPharmacyTaskForce-CDER@fda.hhs.gov.

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