EBay to pay $59 million to settle lawsuit over pill press sales

BURLINGTON, Vt. –  The e-commerce company eBay has agreed to pay $59 million to settle allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) by selling thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines through its website. 

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), criminals can use pill presses and encapsulating machines to manufacture illegal drugs. By utilizing molds, stamps, or dies that imitate commonly prescribed controlled substances, pill presses have the potential to generate counterfeit pills that closely resemble legitimate pharmaceutical drugs. This includes pills that may be laced with dangerous substances such as fentanyl.

“Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are a significant contributor to the deadly overdose epidemic,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Chair of the Department of Justice’s Opioid Epidemic Civil Litigation Task Force. 

Because of those concerns, the CSA regulates certain pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment, including pill presses and encapsulating machines.

The United States, in its lawsuit, contended that eBay failed to adhere to the CSA requirements for thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines sold on its platform. This included high-capacity pill presses with the capability of producing thousands of pills per hour. The investigation further revealed that hundreds of eBay customers who bought pill presses also acquired counterfeit molds, stamps, or dies. This allowed them to manufacture pills resembling products from legitimate pharmaceutical companies. Notably, several purchasers of eBay’s pill presses have faced successful prosecution in connection with trafficking illegal counterfeit pills.

 “Fentanyl—pressed into fake pills that look like real prescription medications—is killing Americans. Drug traffickers buy the tools to make fake pills, like pill presses, online,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “EBay and other e-commerce platforms must do their part to protect the public. And when they do not, DEA will hold them accountable.”

In addition to the financial settlement, eBay has agreed to improve its compliance program regarding the prohibited and restricted items policy, specifically concerning the sale of pill presses, counterfeit molds, stamps, dies, and encapsulating machines.