- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said he wants to slash the amount of opioids a drug company can make if there is reason to believe too many of their pills are being diverted to abuse.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is responsible for setting yearly quotas of scheduled drugs, including prescription painkillers, yet lawmakers and state attorneys general have urged the Justice Department to reel in the supply, saying companies will sell as many pills as they can.

The proposed rule, which is open to public comment for 15 days, says the DEA will put a greater emphasis on input from federal agencies within the Health and Human Services Department and the states, which sees the crisis up close, when it incorporates the likelihood of abuse 2019 quotas.

“The states are critically situated to provide information about the extent of legitimate and illegitimate use of controlled substances because of their responsibilities for drug enforcement within their jurisdictions, including through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, their responsibilities for administration of their health care systems, and their responsibilities for dealing with the human and social costs of drug abuse and diversion,” the document says.

To that end, Mr. Sessions said he struck a deal with attorney generals in almost every state to share prescribing data with one another so they can root out bad actors, citing the devastating toll of an overdose crisis that kills tens of thousand Americans per year.

“We are not going to accept the status quo. We will not allow this to continue,” Mr. Sessions said at an event in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Business as usual is over. Ending the drug crisis is a top priority for the Trump administration.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the proposal stemmed from his decision to file a lawsuit alleging the DEA wasn’t doing enough to prevent the diversion of pills to his state’s communities. He said the process needed to be more transparent and receive state input.

“The reform sought by DEA proves the impact of our lawsuit is still reverberating in Washington and producing real results capable of ending the oversupply of deadly and addictive painkillers that has killed far too many,” said Mr. Morrisey, one of a few Republican candidates gunning for Sen. Joe Manchin III’s seat in November.

The proposal rule tracks with legislative efforts to rein in quotas. A bipartisan crop of senators recently filed legislation that would require the DEA to consider factors like overdoses and abuse in setting the quotas, noting the agency approved significant increases in total opioid-production quotas between 1993 and 2015, such as a 39-fold increase for oxycodone and a 12-fold increase for hydrocodone.

Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, has praised the agency for lowering quotas by a combined total of 41 percent over the past two years, though says the quotas are still to high and “flood the market” with 14 billion pills per year, or enough for every American adult to have a monthlong prescription.

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