Durbin Presses DEA Administrator To Lower 2018 Opioid Quotas

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today 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.  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 years of dramatic increases to the volume of opioids allowed to come to the market, last year, 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, but DEA-approved opioid production volumes still remain troublingly high—including 55 percent higher oxycodone levels this year than in 2007.  The DEA is expected to post opioid quotas for 2018 in the Federal Register soon, which will then be open for public comment before finalization.

“Tackling the opioid crisis requires a coordinated effort from government agencies, health care providers, drug companies, law enforcement, and the treatment community.  We must make sure all stakeholders are doing everything in their power to prevent opioid addiction,” said Durbin. “I commend Administrator Rosenberg for acknowledging that the DEA can do more to keep dangerous painkillers off our streets by lowering the opioid quota this past year.  In today’s meeting, I asked him to continue this effort and further lower the opioid quotas for 2018.  Fewer pills on the market means less addiction and, hopefully, fewer deaths.”   

Photos of today’s meeting are available here. 

Today’s meeting was also attended by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

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.