DEA announces lower 2017 opioid production quotas amid painkiller overprescription concerns

by Jim Orr

The Drug Enforcement Administration has announced that it will lower the volume of opioid painkillers that can be manufactured in the U.S. next year. The DEA announcement will reduce the agency’s 2017 quota for the production of prescription painkillers by 25% from this year’s quota.

The decision to lower the federal opioid quota comes amid growing awareness among doctors of the epidemic of opioid overprescription that has engulfed the U.S. Over the last two decades, cases of addiction, abuse, and overdose caused by opioid painkillers have risen sharply in the U.S.  Data compiled by the CDC estimates that about 14,000 deaths occurred in the U.S. during 2014 as a result of prescription opioid painkillers.

The DEA’s decision to lower its 2017 quota for opioid painkillers is the first time in years that the agency has taken steps to reduce the production of these drugs. By lowering the federal quota for opioid drugs, the DEA will reduce the availability of many common prescription painkillers in the U.S., including fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and oxycodone. Under federal law, the DEA is required to set annual quotas to regulate the amounts of certain controlled substances produced in the U.S.

In a statement, the DEA said that its decision to lower 2017 quotas for the production of opioid painkillers stemmed in part from reduced demand for these drugs as more doctors have become aware of the dangers of opioid overprescription. The agency said that in previous years, the DEA had added a 25% “buffer” to the anticipated demand for prescription painkillers in order to allow for increased production in the event of a shortage. A DEA spokesperson said that the agency’s 25% “buffer” in recent years has never been utilized.

Despite the 25% reduced quota that will go into effect next year, levels of opioid production in the U.S. are still significantly higher than they were before the opioid crisis began years ago. Under the 2017 guidelines, for example, the DEA will permit 1,750 kg of the drug fentanyl to be produced in the U.S. Although this number is 24% lower than the DEA fentanyl quota for 2016, it is still more than 22% higher than the agency’s 1,428kg quota for fentanyl between 2006 and 2012.

Some experts are doubtful that the DEA’s opioid quotas for 2017 will have a significant impact in addressing the epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction that has affected the U.S. in recent decades. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an opioid expert from the Phoenix House drug treatment center, said that the lower opioids quotas “would have been helpful if it had happened 10 to 15 years ago when consumption was still rising and rising quickly. Now that we are massively overconsuming opioids this is too little, too late.”

The lower DEA opioid quotas are part of a broader effort by the federal government to reduce the harmful effects of prescription painkiller abuse in the U.S. Earlier this year, the FDA announced that it would require the manufacturers of opioid medications to issue a “black box” warning about the risk of addiction and overdose for these drugs. Many state legislatures have also taken steps to reduce the harmful effects of opioid overprescription by passing monitoring laws to track doctors who prescribe high volumes of these medications to patients.

Opioid Overdose Victims May Qualify to Take Legal Action

Opioid overprescription has caused hundreds of thousands cases involving overdose, addiction, dependency, and death. In recent decades, the pharmaceutical industry has aggressively promoted prescription painkillers to doctors while ignoring the health consequences for patients. The indiscriminate prescription of opioid drugs by some physicians has also played a role in the U.S. epidemic of opioid abuse.

If you or a loved one were the victim of an opioid overdose, or if you have suffered other serious complications caused by these drugs, you may qualify to file a lawsuit against the drug company that manufactured your medication, or the doctor or hospital who prescribed the drug. The first step in taking legal action is to speak with a law firm whose attorneys have the legal experience with opioids lawsuits to guide you through the process of filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have filed more lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were injured by the powerful painkiller fentanyl than all other law firms in the country—combined. Our law firm has also represented numerous patients who suffered complications from other opioid drugs. Heygood, Orr & Pearson is committed to helping patients who have been harmed by the aggressive marketing of opioids by the pharmaceutical industry and the indiscriminate prescribing practices for painkillers of many doctors.

For more information opioid painkillers lawsuits and to learn whether you may qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few brief questions to get started.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.