More than a dozen senators from across the country, including one from Connecticut, called on the Drug Enforcement Administration to better combat prescription drug abuse.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he joined a group of 16 senators in sending a letter to the DEA in which they urged the agency to better prevent painkillers from flooding the market by setting lower opioid quotas for 2018.
The senators said last year, the DEA reduced all quotas by 25 percent or more. However, they said DEA-approved opioid production remains high, including 55 percent higher oxycodone levels in 2017 from 2007.
“As the gatekeeper for how many opioids are allowed to be sold legally every year in the United States, we commend DEA on taking initial steps last year to lower production quotas for the first time in a generation,” the senators wrote. “However, the 2017 production quota levels for numerous schedule II opioids remain dramatically higher than they were a decade ago. Further reductions, through DEA’s existing quota-setting authority, are necessary to rein in this epidemic.”
The group is also looking for an explanation into how the DEA comes to a decision about setting its quotas.
Here's the letter they sent:
The Honorable Chuck Rosenberg
United States Drug Enforcement Administration
8701 Morrissette Dr.
Springfield, VA 22152
Dear Acting Administrator Rosenberg:
As our nation continues to confront the worsening prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, we write to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to build upon last year’s progress in reducing aggregate production quotas for schedule II opioids and further lower those levels for 2018.
In order to effectively combat this raging crisis, stakeholders—especially our federal oversight agencies—must use every tool available to prevent the flood of addictive narcotic painkillers onto the market that can result in misuse, abuse, and diversion. We have shared our deep concern that, for the past two decades, DEA has approved significant increases in the aggregate volume of opioids allowed to be produced for sale in the United States. 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 the gatekeeper for how many opioids are allowed to be sold legally every year in the United States, we commend DEA on taking initial steps last year to lower production quotas for the first time in a generation. We were pleased that DEA followed our calls to lower nearly all opioid production quotas by 25 percent or more, including reducing the quota for hydrocodone by 34 percent. However, the 2017 production quota levels for numerous schedule II opioids remain dramatically higher than they were a decade ago. Further reductions, through DEA’s existing quota-setting authority, are necessary to rein in this epidemic.
We have, and will continue to, engage with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on ensuring they are providing your agency with the appropriate information—which takes into account the downstream public health impact of the volume of opioids authorized to come to market—to help inform DEA’s quota-setting process. In addition, as we have stated to you in the past, we believe that DEA should use existing authorities under the Controlled Substances Act to consider the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and proactively adjust opioid production quotas, given this “change in the currently accepted medical use” of opioids.
Finally, as DEA issues its draft order for the 2018 production quotas, we urge the agency to foster enhanced transparency and accountability by taking the following actions:
We appreciate DEA’s commitment to tackling the opioid epidemic through changes to aggregate production quotas. By continuing to use its quota-setting authority in a proactive and robust way to combat the opioid crisis, while preserving access for legitimate medical use, DEA has the opportunity to make a real and immediate difference that will benefit American communities and save lives.
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