August 07, 2017

Cortez Masto Highlights Drug Enforcement Administration Proposal to Reduce Opioid Production Quotas

Throughout America there is an epidemic ravaging our rural areas. Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose.

Las Vegas, NV – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) praised the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) proposal to reduce production quotas for nearly all Schedule II prescription opioids by 20 percent for next year. The DEA is responsible for establishing annual quotas determining the exact amount of each opioid drug that is permitted to be produced in the U.S. each year. Last year – after years of dramatic increases to the volume of opioids allowed to come to the market – the DEA heeded the Senator’s call to address America’s opioid epidemic by reducing nearly all opioid quotas by 25 percent or more. This was the first reduction of its kind in over twenty years. After the DEA’s announcement, three powerful, addictive painkillers will see a significant reduction from what was allowed on the market just two years prior: a 31 percent cut to oxycodone over two years; a 43 percent cut to hydrocodone over two years; and a 42 percent cut to fentanyl over two years.

“Throughout America there is an epidemic ravaging our rural areas. Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose.” said Cortez Masto. “The DEA and Acting Administrator Rosenberg have taken a strong step in reducing the number of opioids produced in our country. Yet more needs to be done in Nevada and throughout our country to support Americans overcoming addiction, educate medical professionals on the dangers of over prescription, and to stop drug companies from misleading the public about their products. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to fight this epidemic.”

In July, Cortez Masto joined a group of sixteen senators in urging the DEA to better prevent painkillers from flooding the market by setting lower opioid production quotas for 2018. The Senators also pressed the agency to improve transparency in its quota-setting process by providing an explanation of how it reaches a determination and publishes quotas granted to individual manufacturers of schedule II opioids. 

Between 1993 and 2015, the DEA allowed production of oxycodone to increase 39-fold, hydrocodone to increase 12-fold, hydromorphone to increase 23-fold, and fentanyl to increase 25-fold. As a result, the number of opioid pain relievers dispensed in the United States has skyrocketed over the last two decades – from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to more than 245 million prescriptions in 2014. The increase in opioid-related overdose deaths has mirrored the dramatic rise in opioid prescribing, with more than 33,000 deaths in 2015. 

The DEA’s opioid quota proposal for 2018 was published Friday, August 4th in the Federal Register. It will be open for comment before finalization later this year.