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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 DurbinDick DurbinThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Ex-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Trump DOJ demanded metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, Apple says 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 FeinsteinProgressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema 'If this thing qualifies, I'm toast': An oral history of the Gray Davis recall in California The big myths about recall elections MORE (D-Calif.) and Republican Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyHouse unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Iowa governor questions lack of notice on migrant children flights to Des Moines Senate crafts Pelosi alternative on drug prices MORE (Iowa), all members of the Judiciary Committee, also signed onto the bill. 

Last week, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMedia leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations Trump DOJ subpoenaed Apple for records of White House lawyer: report Pelosi: Trump DOJ seizure of House Democrats' data ' goes even beyond Richard Nixon' 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.