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Bipartisan bill would give DEA more power in setting opioid quotas

Bipartisan bill would give DEA more power in setting opioid quotas
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Monday they said would strengthen the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) ability to prevent opioid abuse. 

The bill would allow the DEA to take into consideration overdose deaths and abuse rates when it annually sets quotas for the number of Schedule I and II controlled substances, such as opioids, that can be manufactured and produced in the U.S. 

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Under current law, it can only consider factors like past sales and estimated demand.

“Every day, more than 100 Americans die from an opioid overdose. While we know that there are legitimate uses for opioid painkillers, we also know that these dangerous pills are being over-produced, over-prescribed and over-dispensed,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP senators: Mnuchin should not go to Saudi Arabia Durbin opposes Saudi arms sale over missing journalist Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? MORE (D-Ill.), one of the bill's sponsors. 

He said that while the DEA has taken steps to lower opioid quotas, "their ability to do so is limited." 

"Opioid quota reform is needed so DEA can take important factors like diversion and abuse into account when setting quotas, rather than chasing the downstream consequences of this crisis," Durbin said. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review MORE (D-Calif.) and Republican Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request MORE (Iowa), all members of the Judiciary Committee, also signed onto the bill. 

Last week, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDepartment of Justice right to go after Hezbollah Sessions defends media following disappearance of Saudi journalist Trump goes on 12-tweet Twitter tirade MORE asked the DEA whether such changes are necessary. 

“Given the urgency of this crisis, with an estimated 175 Americans dying per day, we need the DEA to act quickly to determine if changes are needed in the quotas,” Sessions wrote in a memo.

Changes could also be made without Congress through the administrative rule-making process. 

Durbin noted that the DEA approved "significant" increases in opioid production quotas between 1993 and 2015, including a 39-fold increase for oxycodone and a 12-fold increase for hydrocodone.