DEA To Reduce The Amount Of Opioids Manufactured by 25%

By Kelly Burch 10/07/16

The reduction will return amounts to 2012 levels. 

DEA To Reduce The Amount Of Opioids Manufactured by 25%

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has cut the number of opioids manufactured in the United States by 25% or more in 2017, citing lower demand for the powerful pills and concern about their association with addiction. 

The DEA regulates the amount of a controlled substance that can be produced each year. In 2017, the agency will allow fewer doses of morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl to enter the market, according to a report on The Verge

Many of the drugs that the DEA will be reducing have been closely associated with the nation’s opiate crisis. Fentanyl in particular has increasingly been found in the heroin supply, and has caused a rise in overdose deaths across the country. 

Although the news was welcomed by many people who favor tighter control of prescription drugs, the reduction of 25% is actually just the removal of a 25% increase in the amount of opioids allowed to be produced. The DEA put the “buffer” into effect in 2013 because of concerns over a potential shortage of pain pills, and allowed it to remain in effect for three years. 

During that time, however, opioid overdoses skyrocketed. More than 6.5 million Americans reported using an opioid for non-medical use in a 2015 national drug use survey, a trend that is fueled in part by easy access to the pills. 

“The buffer proved unnecessary, because past quotas for these drugs proved adequate,” said DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno, according to the Washington Times.

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines that addressed the addiction risk surrounding opioid painkillers. The new guidelines emphasized that doctors should try to prescribe non-opioid painkillers whenever possible. Overall, the number of prescriptions for opioids has fallen, according to a DEA press release

“We believe the additional reductions in the quota for specific painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxymorphone, are a result of practitioners listening to us and to other agencies, such as the CDC, about the intensity of the opioid epidemic we all face and reducing their prescribing of these drugs,” Carreno said. 

Many people, including lawmakers, have expressed outrage at the number of opioid prescriptions written in the United States. 

“Fourteen billion opioid pills are now dispensed annually in the United States — enough for every adult American to have a bottle of pills,” a coalition of Democratic senators, led by Dick Durbin of Illinois, wrote in a letter sent to the DEA this summer. “Certainly, the pharmaceutical industry is at fault for decades of misleading information about their products and the medical community bears responsibility for its role in overprescribing these dangerous and addictive drugs, but we remain deeply troubled by the sheer volume of opioids available — volumes that are approved by DEA.”

The DEA hopes that the reduction in the overall number of pills will further reduce the number of doctors who recklessly prescribe opioids. 

“We hope the attention of practitioners who are still overprescribing opioid painkillers will be caught by these reductions, and they will give consideration to modifying their own prescribing practices,” said Carreno.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.