West Virginia sues DEA, reforms national drug policy
Every aspect of the pharmaceutical supply chain bears responsibility for the havoc and senseless death unleashed upon West Virginia — and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is no exception.
The DEA — the agency tasked with effectively limiting how many opioid pain pills can be manufactured – has been asleep at the switch and unwilling to recognize fatal flaws within its own system.
Such inaction led our office to unilaterally sue DEA.
We challenged DEA’s broken system, and pressure from our lawsuit recently yielded a directive from the top — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
This is a monumental victory for West Virginia, as we believe our lawsuit will trigger sweeping reform to national drug policy and help stem the unrelenting tide of senseless death.
When the government allows the industry to manufacture and distribute too many opioids, it creates absolutely unacceptable opportunities for criminal, reckless, and negligent conduct — with deadly consequences.
Unfortunately, the drug quota system did just that.
The DEA’s completely broken system confuses market demand for dangerous narcotics with the amount of legitimate medical need. It relies far too much on just a single piece of dangerously deceptive information: the estimated amount of drugs the industry can sell.
Such failure serves the industry’s wants instead of the patients’ needs.
Attorney General Sessions’ directive, as triggered by our lawsuit, will change that misguided focus and, based upon our negotiations, I am hopeful it will lead to several key reforms.
First, DEA will reduce reliance on market demand estimates by seeking annual input from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and every state in the nation.
Second, DEA will discount market demand estimates by the amount that has been and would be diverted into illicit use.
Third, DEA will give states the right to obtain formal administrative hearings to consider concerns and provide evidence of excess opioid supplies.
Given the urgency of the opioid crisis and the need for DEA to enact these reforms in setting next year’s quota, I have urged DEA to draft and issue a rule with immediate effect.
We must have a far better drug quota system that provides for the legitimate medical needs of patients, yet reduces the massive oversupply and death caused in part by the current system.
While my office has aggressively fought bad actors up and down the supply chain, we also must hold government accountable.
Our office began efforts to fix DEA’s broken quota system in September 2015. The Obama DEA effectively stonewalled our demands for information.
I renewed these efforts with President Trump and Attorney General Sessions and eventually filed suit to support the new administration’s shared desire for reform against any potential bureaucratic inertia and complacency.
Attorney General Sessions’ directive proves our strategy worked. This victory marks an important step forward.
The rampant opioid epidemic is the challenge of our time in West Virginia.
We cannot and will not let up. We must win this fight and prevent another generation from falling victim to these deadly drugs.
The era of unlimited drug supply must end and never return.
(Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.)