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Attorney General: DEA's failure to combat diversion costs lives

Authorities say the opioid abuse epidemic in Tennessee. / (MGN)
Authorities say the opioid abuse epidemic in Tennessee. / (MGN)(WVLT)
Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 11:14 PM EDT
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West Virginia's Attorney General released findings of a years-long investigation Thursday, showing federal regulators failed to limit excess manufacturing of dangerous prescription painkillers.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's report revealed never-before-seen documents that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration routinely accepted sales projections and unsupported claims of increased demand for painkillers from drug makers, yet failed to question how many of those pills fell into the hands of abusers.

“The DEA was asleep at the switch when it came to setting limits on the production of the most dangerous and addictive opioids,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The excess supply of opioid painkillers allowed drug makers to flood our state and nation with pills. Apart from minimizing data from the Food and Drug Administration, our investigation revealed DEA made no significant attempt to consult with other agencies, states or private organizations to better substantiate its annual quotas as opioid deaths skyrocketed nationwide.”

The report catalogs the results of two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

The first revealed the DEA appeared to have accepted manufacturer projections over comprehensive data and mathematical models provided by the FDA, information itself that did not account for diversion, but still frequently projected sales much lower than the quota set by the DEA.

The second revealed evidence that the DEA understood the link between diversion and opioid abuse, however failed to consider adverse information within its own systems.

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