Durbin urges Drug Enforcement Administration to reduce opioid doses


Daily file photo by Paige Leskin

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin won re-election Tuesday night, pulling in over 50 percent of the votes.

Kristina Karisch, Print Managing Editor

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently urged officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration to improve regulations on opioid prescription rates in response to the nationwide crisis.

Durbin and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on Nov. 1 sent a letter to officials at the DEA urging them to prevent and limit opioid diversion by placing increased regulations on the pharmaceutical industry and reducing opioid production quotas for 2020. In its 2020 proposal, the DEA said it would lower quotas based on reported theft and seizures. Durbin and Kennedy argued this does not adequately reflect the effects of public health harms, abuse and overdosing created by high production levels.

“We fear that the explanation provided by DEA for ignoring the clear connection between the staggering volumes of painkillers approved for production and the current overdose epidemic signals that DEA is reverting to the short-sighted approach that precipitated this opioid crisis,” the senators wrote in the letter. “DEA must exercise its quota authority to serve as a gatekeeper and weigh the public health impact of how many opioids it allows to be sold each year in the United States.”

Between 1993 and 2015, the production of oxycodone increased 39-fold, hydrocodone increased 12-fold, and fentanyl increased 25-fold, according to a news release from Durbin’s office. He linked the increase in overdose deaths in the United States to increased opioid prescriptions. In 2016, 42,000 individuals died as a result of opioids, and the pharmaceutical industry put 14 billion opioid doses on the market.

In 2018, after passage of Durbin and Kennedy’s Opioid Quota Reform Act, the DEA was allowed to adjust their opioid quotas to prevent opioid diversion and abuse while ensuring an adequate supply for legitimate medical needs. On Oct. 31, Durbin and Kennedy secured funding to provide the agency with additional tools “to limit the over-production of prescription painkillers,” according to the release.

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