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DEA Announces Plan to Limit Production of Opioids

— April 27, 2018

DEA Announces Plan to Limit Production of Opioids

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently announced it would tighten the rules regarding the amount of prescription opioid painkillers that drug makers can produce in a given year, placing a specified limit on the amount manufactured, with the hope of curtailing the opioid epidemic.  “Under the proposed new rule, if the DEA believes a company’s opioids are being diverted for misuse, then they will reduce the amount of opioids that company can make,” according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The proposal calls for quotas to limit the number of opioids produced and asks for input from state officials and other federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Companies would have to work with the states in which they operate, as well as these agencies, to justify the number of pills being sent to medical personnel.  This all-in-it together mindset has become more of a focus following the announcement from the Trump administration that it would strengthen efforts to curtail the nation’s sweeping epidemic.

West Virginia law enforcement officials recently announced their intentions to crack down on a drug trafficking ring in Huntington which has been identified as “ground zero” for the crisis.  The DEA was also sued for its efforts in December by the state, whose officials disagreed with its newly enforced drug quota rules.  It was argued that the agency’s policy is based on the amounts of pills manufacturers expect to sell, not those that are actually distributed to patients for medical purposes.  Therefore, the approach, according to state officials, ended up contributing to the growing addiction issue and the illegal diversion of pain medications for illegal use.  “We must end senseless death in West Virginia,” said the state’s Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey.

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Rather than counteracting efforts to address opioid misuse, however, the nation’s top officials have indicated that Session’s newly announced efforts assist with policies made at the state level.  “No one’s trying to revise the law that limited [the Department of Justice’s] and DEA’s ability to go after drug distributors,” said Regina LaBelle, former Chief of Staff at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.  “Essentially, people have looked at the quota system as being part of the problem for many years.  And, this announcement and the new rule would appear to be trying to address that issue.”

Sessions has moved forward with his plans, creating a task force designed to deploy prosecutors to some of the hardest hit areas with a mandate to bring cases against traffickers and ensure that there is a limit placed wherever needed.  These individuals, along with physicians who have been said to be contributing to the crisis by overprescribing, and manufacturers, who are over-producing, are being held accountable for misuse.  Sessions also announced that the DEA had entered into a prescription drug information-sharing arrangement with 48 of the nation’s attorney generals to help them more readily identify criminals.

The last time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the number of people who have died from opioid overdoses, in 2016, this number had risen to 42,000.


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