(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today met with Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and urged him to reduce the amount of opioid pills allowed to be manufactured and sold in the United States in 2018. 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 was the first reduction of its kind in over twenty years, but DEA-approved opioid production volumes still remain troublingly high—including 55 percent higher oxycodone levels this year than in 2007. The DEA is expected to post opioid quotas for 2018 in the Federal Register soon, which will then be open for public comment before finalization.
“Over-production and over-prescription of painkillers has taken a devastating toll and fueled the worst public health emergency in our state’s history,” said Senator Shaheen. “Administrator Rosenberg has taken positive steps in reducing the amount of opioid painkillers in the marketplace, and I urged him to continue these efforts in today’s meeting by further reducing the quota of opioid pills produced. We must combat this crisis on all fronts and it’s critical that the DEA is using every means at its disposal.”
“We know that the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis that is devastating our communities and taking a major toll on our economy in New Hampshire comes in large part from the overuse, misuse, and abuse of prescription opioids,” Senator Hassan said. “By reducing the number of opioid pills allowed to be manufactured and sold in the United States, we can help prevent addiction and save lives. I appreciated the opportunity to meet with DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, and I urge him to continue his commitment to lowering opioid quotas so that we can stem – and ultimately reverse – the tide of this horrific epidemic.”
Photos of today’s meeting are available here.
Today’s meeting was also attended by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
In July, Shaheen and Hassan 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 publishing 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.