Bipartisan Bill Targets Online Sales of Illicit Drugs Laced With Fentanyl
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate on Tuesday would require the Government Accountability Office to investigate the methods used to sell fentanyl online and assess federal law enforcement efforts to prevent it.
The bill, the Targeting Online Sales of Fentanyl Act, was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
“The online sale of illicit drugs laced with fentanyl has had a devastating effect: drug overdoses now surpass suicide, traffic accidents and gun violence as one of the leading causes of preventable death among people aged 18 to 45,” Booker said in a written statement.
“This legislation will provide answers of how best to disrupt online drug distribution channels, helping lawmakers craft evidence-based solutions that effectively address the issue,” he said.
The bill comes as more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2022 than any year prior, said Booker.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Provisional data show that the reported number of drug overdose deaths occurring in the United States decreased by 2% from the 12 months ending in December 2021 to the 12 months ending in December 2022, from 107,573 to 105,452.”
“The 79,770 reported opioid-involved drug overdose deaths for the 12-month period ending in December 2022 is a decrease from 80,997 in the previous year,” the CDC reported.
Many of these deaths, the senators said, stemmed from the online sale of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl.
The senators also cite statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration that show that during just a two-month period in 2021 there were 76 cases of traffickers advertising drugs on social media.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy discovered that nearly 95% of the 35,000 online pharmacies operated illegally and experts detect over 10,000 new drug-related accounts on social media every month.
The Targeting Online Sales of Fentanyl Act would require the GAO to provide a report within one year on the following areas:
- The business models and techniques employed by online fentanyl traffickers.
- The utilization of social media platforms in facilitating fentanyl transactions involving youth.
- The scope and effectiveness of federal initiatives aimed at countering online fentanyl sales, including intergovernmental and interagency collaborations.
- The enforcement mechanisms and processes employed by online providers to detect and report transactions.
- An analysis of the outcomes of referrals to law enforcement agencies regarding online fentanyl sales, along with areas requiring improvement.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Peter Welch, D-Vt., Tom Tillis, R-N.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Bob Casey, D-Pa.
“Our nation’s drug overdose crisis — fueled by fentanyl — has claimed upwards of 70,000 American lives,” Cruz said in a written statement.
“This fentanyl is often marketed and sold online. I am proud to work with Sen. Booker to introduce bipartisan legislation that scrutinize exact numbers underlying this crisis and allow us to work towards comprehensive solutions to the fentanyl pandemic,” he said.
This story was corrected on Oct. 4, 2023, to include CDC data collected here: https://blogs.cdc.gov/nchs/2023/05/18/7365/