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eBay has agreed to pay $59m (£46.3m) over claims it sold equipment that can manufacture illegal drugs.

The US justice department had alleged that thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines were sold on the site, including to people who were later convicted of drug-related crimes.

The equipment can be used to make counterfeit pills, including those laced with fentanyl.

It comes as many states in the US are battling opioid crises.

“Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are a significant contributor to the deadly overdose epidemic,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, warning that the department “is committed to using all available enforcement measures” to ensure companies selling pill-making equipment follow the law.

Specifically, the e-commerce giant failed to comply with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which requires companies to keep strict records and report them to the Drug Enforcement Administration, federal prosecutors alleged.

The department says pill presses sold on the site are capable of producing thousands of pills per hour. Encapsulating machines, which pack powder into pill capsules, were also sold.

eBay has denied the allegations, saying it settled the case to avoid litigation costs, but pledged to take more actions to comply with the CSA as part of the settlement.

“Maintaining a safe and trusted marketplace for our global community of sellers and buyers is a fundamental principle of our business,” the company said in a statement.

In its investigation, the US government found that hundreds of customers who purchased pill presses also bought counterfeit moulds, stamps, or dyes to make counterfeit pharmaceutical pills.

Drug overdoses killed more than 110,000 people in the US in 2022, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Over two-thirds of those deaths were from the powerful painkiller fentanyl and other synthetic opioids,

The city of Portland on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for the rampant fentanyl use that has overtaken Oregon’s largest city.

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