eBay to pay $59m settlement over sales of pill-making tools



eBay has agreed to a settlement of $59 million (£46.3 million) following allegations of facilitating the sale of equipment capable of manufacturing illegal drugs. The US Department of Justice claimed that the online marketplace allowed the sale of thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines, some of which ended up in the hands of individuals later convicted of drug-related offenses. The equipment in question has the potential to produce counterfeit pills, including those containing the highly potent opioid fentanyl.

This development comes at a time when many US states are grappling with opioid crises, with counterfeit pills, particularly those laced with fentanyl, being a major contributor to the overdose epidemic. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta emphasized the severity of the issue and expressed the department’s commitment to using all available enforcement measures to ensure compliance with the law by companies selling pill-making equipment.

The US justice department alleged that eBay violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by failing to adhere to strict record-keeping and reporting requirements to the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to federal prosecutors, the pill presses sold on the platform have the capacity to produce thousands of pills per hour, and encapsulating machines for filling capsules with powder were also available.

While eBay has denied the allegations, it settled the case for $59 million, citing a desire to avoid litigation costs. As part of the settlement, the company has pledged to take additional measures to comply with the CSA. In a statement, eBay affirmed its commitment to maintaining a safe and trusted marketplace for its global community of sellers and buyers.

The US government’s investigation revealed that numerous customers who purchased pill presses on eBay also acquired counterfeit moulds, stamps, or dyes to manufacture fake pharmaceutical pills. The opioid crisis in the US remains a pressing issue, with drug overdoses claiming over 110,000 lives in 2022, as reported by the US Centers for Disease Control. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were responsible for more than two-thirds of these deaths.

On a related note, the city of Portland declared a state of emergency on Tuesday in response to the widespread use of fentanyl, which has become a significant concern in Oregon’s largest city.