Durbin, Kennedy Secure Amendment In Appropriations Bill To Ensure DEA Uses Its Authority To Reduce Opioid Production Quotas For Pharmaceutical Industry

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and John Kennedy (R-LA) today secured an amendment in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Commerce, Justice, and Science funding bill to ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is properly regulating the pharmaceutical industry by providing the tools necessary to limit the over-production of prescription painkillers that fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic.  The FY 2020 Commerce, Justice, and Science funding bill passed the Senate today along with the FY 2020 Interior and Environment; Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development; and Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration funding bills.

This amendment helps to implement the Opioid Quota Reform Act—which Durbin and Kennedy had signed into law last year (as part of the SUPPORT Act)—legislation that enhanced DEA’s 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. 

“With the approval of the DEA, approximately thirteen billion opioid doses were put on the market in 2017 by Big Pharma—enough for every adult American to have at least a three-week prescription of painkillers,” Durbin said.  “Senator Kennedy and I put into law that DEA must consider the public health harms and risk of opioid addiction when they set these annual production quotas.  Today’s amendment passage will move us towards this goal and help rein in Big Pharma’s insatiable, deadly demand to flood the market with addictive painkillers.”

“This year, we finally got some positive news in the nation’s opioid epidemic.  The number of drug-related deaths in the U.S. dropped for the first time in decades.   That doesn’t mean the battle is over,” Kennedy said.  “Sen. Durbin and I have been working to lower opioid production quotas.  This amendment will help stop drug companies from providing you with more painkillers than you need.  Enough is enough.”  

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.  Between 1993 and 2015, DEA allowed aggregate production quotas for oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, hydromorphone to increase 23-fold, and fentanyl to increase 25-fold.  As a result, tens of billions of painkillers flooded the market in every corner of the nation, which ignited the current opioid epidemic. 

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 call over the past several years to help prevent opioid addiction by responsibly reducing nearly all opioid quotas.  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.