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Opioid manufacturing to reduce in 2019

The number of opioids manufactured in the United States could be reduced by an average of 10% in the coming year. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, proposed the reduction for the controlled substances. The measure is consistent with President Trump’s “Safe Prescribing Plan which seeks to “cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years,” and would decrease the number of the six most frequently misused opioids: oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine, and fentanyl.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) marks the third straight year of proposed reductions, which have helped reduce the number of drugs potentially diverted for trafficking and used to facilitate addiction.

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy said that medical professionals in Mississippi have helped by issuing fewer prescriptions and has resulted in the numbers going down exponentially each year.

“The primary reason for the decrease is because people opened their eyes and realized we had a problem with prescribing,” Dowdy said. “The medical community has really stepped up to the plate to start curtailing the number of prescriptions that are being written, plus the actions of the medical licensing board.”

Dowdy added that Mississippi’s numbers are in keeping with the national trend saying that from 2016-2017 there was a 9% decrease in opioid prescriptions.

On July 11, 2018, the Justice Department announced that the DEA was issuing a final rule amending its regulations to improve the agency’s ability to consider the likelihood of whether a drug can be diverted for abuse when it sets annual opioid production limits.

If DEA believes that a particular opioid or a particular company’s opioids are being diverted for misuse, this allows DEA to reduce the amount that can be produced in a given year,” said a release from the DEA. “These revised limits will encourage vigilance on the part of opioid manufacturers, help DEA respond to the changing drug threat environment, and protect the American people from potentially addictive drugs while ensuring that the country has enough opioids for genuine medical, scientific, research and industrial needs.

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With the reduction in the number of opioids, some worry that individuals with “legitimate” pain needs will have a harder time acquiring the opioids, however, Dowdy said he doesn’t see that as being an issue in Mississippi.

“I don’t think anything about the efforts that are currently being undertaken are going to affect the ability of someone who actually needs opioids as a treatment from getting those,” Dowdy said. “What the primary focus has been so far is making sure that those who don’t need opioid treatment are getting some other form, or a minimal dosage to be able to help them through a short-term acute pain situation.”

The DOJ and DEA said that ultimately, revised limits will encourage vigilance on the part of opioid manufacturers, help DEA respond to the changing drug threat environment, and protect the American people from potential addictive drugs while ensuring that the country has enough opioids for legitimate medical, scientific, research, and industrial needs.

“The opioid epidemic that we are facing today is the worst drug crisis in American history,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “President Trump has set the ambitious goal of reducing opioid prescription rates by one-third in three years. We embrace that goal and are resolutely committed to reaching it. According to the National Prescription Audit, we have already made significant progress in reducing prescription rates over the past year. Cutting opioid production quotas by an average of ten percent next year will help us continue that progress and make it harder to divert these drugs for abuse. The American people can be confident that federal law enforcement and the Trump administration are taking action to protect them from dangerous drugs.  These smarter limits bring us one big step closer to President Trump’s goal of finally ending this unprecedented crisis. I congratulate Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon and his team for taking action.”

Once the aggregate quota is set, the DEA will allocate individual manufacturing and procurement quotas to those manufacturers that apply for them. In addition, the DEA may revise a company’s quota at any time during the year if a change is warranted due to increased or decreased sales or exports, new manufacturers entering the market, new product development, or product recalls. 

“We’ve lost too many lives to the opioid epidemic and families and communities suffer tragic consequences every day,” said DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “This significant drop in prescriptions by doctors and DEA’s production quota adjustment will continue to reduce the amount of drugs available for illicit diversion and abuse while ensuring that patients will continue to have access to proper medicine.”

Dowdy reinforced the need for looking at the opioid issue from all sides, not just one viewpoint saying that they are also focusing the law enforcement side of things with finding and prosecuting drug traffickers and dealers.

“One of the things that we are having to do from a law enforcement perspective is to really ramp up our efforts to make sure that we are combatting it on a street level, those drugs that were diverted, plus the numbers that we are seeing in terms of heroin supply coming into Mississippi,” Dowdy said.

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