Durbin Applauds DEA For Lowering Opioid Quotas For Second Year In A Row

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today praised the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) proposal to reduce production quotas for nearly all Schedule II prescription opioids by 20 percent for next year. The DEA is responsible for establishing annual quotas determining the exact amount of each opioid drug that is permitted to be produced in the U.S. each year.  Last year—after years of dramatic increases to the volume of opioids allowed to come to the market—the DEA heeded the Senator’s call to address America’s opioid epidemic by reducing nearly all opioid quotas by 25 percent or more. This was the first reduction of its kind in over twenty years.  After today’s announcement, three powerful, addictive painkillers will see a significant reduction from what was allowed on the market just two years prior: a 31 percent cut to oxycodone over two years; a 43 percent cut to hydrocodone over two years; and a 42 percent cut to fentanyl over two years.

“Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose.  While we know that there are legitimate uses for opioid painkillers, we also know that these dangerous pills are being over-prescribed and over-dispensed.  Each year, nearly 14 billion opioid pills are dispensed in the United States—enough for every adult to have a one month’s prescription.  Four out of five current heroin users report that their addiction began with a prescription for opioid pills,” said Durbin.  “It is long past time that we take a serious look at how many of these pills are allowed to flood our markets and streets.  That is why I commend the DEA and Acting Administrator Rosenberg for taking steps—two years in a row—to reduce the number of opioids allowed to be produced in the U.S.  But our work is not done.  These quotas should continue to come down, doctors must be more judicious in their prescribing, drug companies must stop misleading the public about their products, and we simply must do more to help those who are currently addicted get treatment.”

Yesterday, Durbin—along with five other Democratic Senators—met with Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and urged him to reduce the amount of opioid pills allowed to be manufactured and sold in the United States in 2018.  In July, Durbin led a group of sixteen senators in urging the DEA to better prevent painkillers from flooding the market by setting lower opioid production quotas for 2018.  The senators also pressed the agency to improve transparency in its quota-setting process by providing an explanation of how it reaches a determination and publishing quotas granted to individual manufacturers of schedule II opioids.

Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA allowed production of oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, hydromorphone to increase 23-fold, and fentanyl to increase 25-fold.  As a result, the number of opioid pain relievers dispensed in the United States has skyrocketed over the last two decades – from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to more than 245 million prescriptions in 2014.  The increase in opioid-related overdose deaths has mirrored the dramatic rise in opioid prescribing, with more than 33,000 deaths in 2015.

The DEA’s opioid quota proposal for 2018 was published today in the Federal Register. It will be open for comment before finalization later this year.