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Health groups urge feds to relax opioid production limits amid coronavirus

Health groups urge feds to relax opioid production limits amid coronavirus
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Multiple health groups have banded together to urge the federal government to relax opioid production limits during the coronavirus crisis in a letter sent Tuesday.

The groups, including the American Hospital Association, sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), requesting the federal agency to increase the annual quotas for manufacturers and outsourcing facilities to develop opioids for the duration of the national emergency. 

The quotas had been tightened due to the opioid addiction crisis. 

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The organizations said hospitals are struggling to obtain enough controlled substances that “are necessary to mechanically ventilate patients safely and effectively.” They said the DEA needs to approve the increase in production “if they have any hope of meeting the current enormous demand surge.”

“We appreciate DEA’s work to protect against diversion and maintain control over the flow of opioids into our communities,” the letter reads. “However, during this unprecedented health crisis, hospitals must have sufficient CII supply to treat patients.”

The letter said the coronavirus has increased demand for morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl and other opioids, which “were already in shortage” before the outbreak. Another signatory of the letter, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, lists fentanyl, morphine and hydromorphone on its drug shortage list. 

“Injectable opioid medications such as these are vital for sedation, pain management, and interventional procedures. While oral dosage forms may be available, these are not clinically indicated for ventilation,” the letter reads. “Without sufficient IV opioid supply, patients will suffer.”

The American Medical Association, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Association for Clinical Oncology also signed the letter.

A senior DEA official told Reuters the agency thinks the national quotas are “completely sufficient” to meet the high demand, adding more of the quota could be filled by companies that haven’t met it.

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The official said the DEA was closely monitoring the situation and has talked about quick actions it can take to increase the quota.

“These are unprecedented times, and the DEA is taking unprecedented actions to make sure we support hospitals on the front lines,” the official said, according to Reuters.

Pfizer Inc. said in a statement to The Hill that the DEA approve an increase in the company’s quota for injectable fentanyl this week.

Updated at 4:50 p.m.