Durbin, Senators Praise Dea Decision To Lower Opioid Quotas

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) today praised the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) decision to reduce next year’s production quotas for nearly all Schedule II prescription opioids by 25 percent or more. Three powerful, addictive painkillers will see the most significant reductions from what is allowed on the market this year: hydrocodone (34% reduction), oxymorphone (45% reduction), and hydromorphone (38% reduction).
Durbin led the senators in urging the agency to keep addictive painkillers from flooding the U.S. market by setting lower quotas in the coming years.  With its existing quota-setting authority, the DEA effectively serves as a gatekeeper for how many opioids can be produced and sold in the United States every year. Over the past two decades, the DEA had approved ever-greater increases in opioid quotas, allowing production of oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, hydromorphone to increase 23-fold, and fentanyl to increase 25-fold.  Today’s announcement represents the largest decrease in opioid production quotas in two decades.
The senators also welcomed the DEA’s announcement that it had considered the impact of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain” on doctors’ prescribing practices in determining the quantities of prescription opioids required to meet legitimate medical and scientific need.
“The size and scope of the U.S. opioid epidemic requires immediate, sweeping action from federal and local governments, health care professionals, and drug companies,” said the senators. “We commend the DEA for using its authority to significantly reduce the quantity of addictive painkillers that are flooding the market. This action will help prevent individuals from becoming addicted in the first place. We must now continue to use all the tools at our disposal to enhance federal oversight of prescription opioids, improve prescribing practices, and address barriers to addiction treatment. Failure to act will result in more heroin and opioid overdose deaths and more Americans becoming addicted.”
In a letter sent earlier this year, the senators urged DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to use the agency’s quota-setting authority to reduce the quantity of opioid pills on the market in order to combat the ongoing prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. The letter outlined changes the DEA should adopt to improve the quota-setting process, including: making the quotas that each drug company receives public; justifying the public health benefits of any opioid quota increase; and taking the opioid epidemic into consideration when setting quotas.