DEA rolled out its proposed aggregate production quotas for 2021 earlier this week, the same day, in fact, that it proposed adjustments to its 2020 quotas. Let’s start off by looking at the Big Five, at least as far as the SUPPORT Act is concerned: fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, and hydromorphone.
With the filing of two class action lawsuits, one against Walgreens and Costco, and one against CVS, in two federal district courts on August 6, pharmacies find themselves in a perplexing situation (yet again). For these suits were filed not by those who suffered from the over-dispensing of opioids, but by chronic pain patients who were denied opioid medication by pharmacies.
DEA is investigating two pharmacies in Colorado. It doesn’t want those pharmacies to know it is investigating them. But it needs information relating to these pharmacies and the prescriptions they are dispensing to assist with its investigation. So DEA is doing what it does on a regular basis in many states. It is issuing subpoenas for the Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”) data relevant to these registrants. And Colorado is objecting.
In a decision issued on October 30, Judge Joseph Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia dissolved an Order of Immediate Suspension of Registration (“ISO”) issued by DEA against Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy, a West Virginia pharmacy. Without getting too far into the factual weeds of this case, I do think there are two or three critical takeaways related to both the adjudication of this matter and to DEA’s view of Subutex vs. Suboxone.
Is “Suspicious Order” about to be defined?
The recently-released DOJ OIG Review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Regulatory and Enforcement Efforts to Control the Diversion of Opioids has met with extensive media coverage focused on the sexier aspects of the story. What did DEA do or not do to stem the opioids crisis? What internal battles may have led DEA to drop the ball in some aspects of the response? These are important questions, but they have been well-covered.
Instead, we are going to focus on a handful of the nine recommendations (listed below) made by the IG and DEA’s and ODAG’s responses.
While acknowledging the safety of the approved daily doses of OTC loperamide for adults (8mg per day) and prescription loperamide (16mg per day), the FDA recently approved new package-size and package-type limits for the brand-name OTC tablet and capsule forms of the drug. Here are the products affected by the FDA’s notice:
- Imodium A-D
DEA is out with its proposed 2020 aggregate production quotas for Schedule I and II controlled substances, and they have been reduced dramatically from 2019’s numbers. From the press release:
DEA proposes to reduce the amount of fentanyl produced by 31 percent, hydrocodone by 19 percent, hydromorphone by 25 percent, oxycodone by nine percent and oxymorphone by 55 percent. Combined with morphine, the proposed quota would be a 53 percent decrease in the amount of allowable production of these opioids since 2016.”
How’d They Get There?
Why the size of the decrease? Aside from the obvious political pressures attendant to legitimate concern over the proliferation of the opioid crisis and, perhaps, some less-legitimate political posturing, the DEA cites the usual factors and a significant new one. As always, DEA consults “many sources, including estimates of the legitimate medical need from the Food and Drug Administration; estimates of retail consumption based on prescriptions dispensed; manufacturer’s disposition history and forecasts; data from DEA’s internal system for tracking controlled substance transactions; and past quota histories.”
Uttam Dhillon, DEA Acting Administrator, issued a final order today in the case of the revocation of a New York doctor’s DEA registration. But its implications go well beyond this doctor’s circumstances.
Here are the basics. Dr. Jeffrey Stein was convicted of tax-related crimes in the Southern District of New York in 2015. Specifically, Dr. Stein had provided false receipts and other fabricated documents to his accountant to reduce the amount of taxes he would have to pay and, in turn, to mislead the IRS Auditor into believing that the claimed expenses were legitimate. Dr. Stein pled guilty to these charges. Of particular relevance to today’s order, Dr. Stein had used, among the fabricated materials, “the names of four disabled military veterans (including two former patients whose identities he obtained as a result of his work for the V.A, [and] . . . created bogus invoices in the names of those veterans.”