Neustar participated in the FDA’s 2019 Online Opioid Summit at the beginning of April showcasing the .biz case studies published on mitigation efforts to tackle the illegal sale of online opioids epidemic. We have participated in additional meetings to help support an ongoing Framework for Registries with the NTIA, FDA, and other Registry Operators.

Key takeaways

  • Neustar partnering with FDA to identify new approaches and technologies to ensure a safe and secure online environment
  • Registrations for sites illegally selling opioids or other pharmaceuticals put on hold proactively and in response to alert reports
  • Members of the public can report suspicious or illegal domain name activity within .biz at

A National Epidemic

In February 2019, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. described the opioid crisis as “one of the largest and most complex public health tragedies that our nation has ever faced.”[1] According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 47,000 Americans died in 2017 as a result of opioid overdose, and with an estimated 1.7 million people in the U.S. experiencing “substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.”[2]

Illicit Online Sales Contributing to the Opioid Crisis

In its statement, the FDA highlighted the significant impact of curtailing the illicit online purchase of opioids, facilitated by “the flow of drugs on the surface and dark web.” The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) said in a statement that “restricting illegal online drug sellers from appearing in search results would limit public exposure to counterfeit and potentially dangerous medication”, particularly in the case of opioids. NABP “evaluated 100 websites selling medications to patients in the US, and all of them were found to be operating illegally,” with more than half offering controlled substances.[3]

Neustar Takes Down Illegal Online Pharmacies

Neustar, the Registry Operator for the .biz Top Level Domain (TLD), administers the .biz registration and usage policies. Enforcing these policies requires a dual proactive and reactive approach, which Neustar undertakes continuously to identify and address policy-related issues. Reactive measures include investigating reports from third parties, such as the FDA, law enforcement and the public, while proactively Neustar may review domain name strings for high-risk keywords, such as ‘opioid,’ using advanced search tools to find and flag domain strings containing keywords for further investigation. When required, Neustar works with relevant authorities within the structure of its policies to determine an appropriate course of action, which from a domain name perspective may include placing the domain on ‘serverHold’ (removing it from the DNS) or deleting the domain name.

A recent demonstration of this occurred when the FDA sent notice to relevant Registrars regarding three offending domains registered in the .biz namespace. When the Registrars did not take action, the FDA referred the issue to Neustar and the domains were subsequently placed on serverHold.

Staying Ahead of Malicious Actors

As the internet itself evolves, so too do our policies and approach to regulating .biz for the benefit of all Internet users. Neustar continually reviews the policy of all the TLDs for which it is (or acts as) Registry Operator, including .biz, to ensure they are comprehensive, accurate and actionable.

We are continuing to work with the FDA to review possible proactive approaches and technology that can be used to identify and take action on .biz sites that are illegally offering opioids for sale online to U.S. consumers and to investigate and respond to reported violations of .biz usage policies.

[1] U.S. Food & Drug Administration; Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on the agency’s 2019 policy and regulatory agenda for continued action to forcefully address the tragic epidemic of opioid abuse, February 2019.

[2] National Institute on Drug Abuse; Opioid Overdose Crisis, Revised January 2019.

[3] The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program; Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: February 2018.