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Feds order cuts in prescription opioid production

BECKLEY, W.Va. — The Drug Enforcement Administration has announced this week it will reduce the amount of Schedule II drugs that can be produced in the United States by 25 percent, including prescription opioids.

The three powerful, addictive painkillers that will see the most significant reductions from what was allowed on the market this year are hydrocodone (34 percent reduction), oxymorphone (45 percent reduction) and hydromorphone (38 percent reduction).

This is the largest decrease in opioid production quotas in two decades.

 According to a press release from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the number of prescriptions written by DEA-registered practitioners for these medications has decreased.

Much of this reduction is attributed to the elimination of a 25 percent buffer that was added to the Aggregate Production Quota (the total amount needed to meet needs and maintain reserve stocks). This buffer was added annually in 2013 through 2016 to guard against shortages.

The DEA has been under pressure to reduce the supply of opioids by United State Senators.

Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Edward Markey, D-Mass.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and Angus King, I-Maine, sent a letter to the DEA in July.

According to that letter, “Fourteen billion opioid pills are now dispensed annually in the United States – enough for every adult American to have a bottle of pills. 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 over-prescribing these dangerous and addictive drugs, but we remain deeply troubled by the sheer volume of opioids available – volumes that are approved by DEA.”

 Manchin said Thursday that the decision to cut back on production is one step toward curbing the opioid epidemic.

“I applaud their commitment to reversing this trend,” Manchin said. “There are simply too many opioid pills on the market and ‎the DEA is an important partner in addressing that problem.

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health released last month found 6.5 million Americans over the age of 12 used controlled prescription medicines non-medically during the past month, second only to marijuana and more than past-month users of cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogens combined.

— Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer

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