Durbin, Kennedy Applaud DEA For Lowering Opioid Quotas For Fourth Year In A Row

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John Kennedy (R-LA) today praised the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) proposal to reduce production quotas for nearly all Schedule II prescription opioids by an average of 32 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.  After two decades of dramatic increases to the volume of opioids allowed to come to the market, the DEA has heeded Durbin and Kennedy’s calls to help prevent opioid addiction by responsibly reducing nearly all opioid quotas.  In the four years since Durbin has engaged DEA on this issue, opioid quotas have been lowered by an average of 62 percent. 

“Approximately thirteen billion opioid doses were put on the market in 2017—enough for every adult American to have at least a three-week prescription of painkillers,” said Durbin.  “Senator Kennedy and I put into law that DEA must consider the impact the opioid abuse epidemic has when they set these annual quotas. I’m glad we are making progress and commend DEA for reining in Big Pharma’s insatiable demand to flood the market with addictive painkillers.”

“It’s important to produce pain killers for patients who need them, but it’s irresponsible to produce massive amounts of addictive opioids that can be misused and abused,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Last year, Sen. Durbin and I passed a law that guides the DEA to adjust production quotas to prevent opioid addictions. After two decades of dramatic increases in opioid production, I applaud the DEA for setting annual production quotas that will reduce the number of addictive opioids available on the market.”

After today’s announcement, five powerful, addictive painkillers are set to see a significant reduction from what was allowed on the market just four years prior, including a 48 percent cut to oxycodone production over four years; a 59 percent cut to hydrocodone production over four years; and a 65 percent cut to fentanyl production over four years.

Last year, Congress passed Durbin and Kennedy’s Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018, which enhanced DEA’s existing opioid quota-setting authority by improving transparency and enabling DEA to adjust quotas to prevent opioid diversion and abuse while ensuring an adequate supply for legitimate medical needs. This is the first year DEA set quotas with the new guidelines passed into law.

Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA allowed production of oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, and fentanyl to increase 25-fold.  As a result, the number of opioid pain relievers dispensed in the United States skyrocketed. The increase in opioid-related overdose deaths has mirrored the dramatic rise in opioid prescribing, with more than 42,000 deaths in 2016. In 2016, the pharmaceutical industry put 14 billion opioid doses on the market—enough for every adult to have a one-month supply.  In 2017, this was reduced to 13 billion opioid doses—enough for every adult to have a three-week.