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.
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Quota Reductions

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.”


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Last week was an active week when it comes to marijuana policy. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it will begin considering (and approving?) applications to allow for the manufacture (growing) of marijuana for research purposes. Shortly thereafter, United States Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams (Dr. Adams), issued an advisory regarding the significant adverse effects of marijuana use by adolescents and by women during pregnancy. Both developments could foreshadow the long road ahead for marijuana legalization advocates seeking DEA’s removal of marijuana from its listing as a schedule I controlled substance.

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Just as there are several factors that contributed to the opioid epidemic, there are a myriad of solutions that, in tandem, will make a difference in the lives of those impacted by opioid abuse and may prevent others from misusing and abusing these drugs. Roger Krone and his team at Leidos are executing a program that should be emulated by companies across the United States.

After receiving an email from an employee whose son recently lost his life to a drug overdose, Leidos CEO Roger Krone directed the creation of a corporate responsibility program focusing on drug abuse awareness, prevention, and treatment. The CEO Pledge was born from this initiative.


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On July 23, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the issuance of a Warning Letter to the manufacturer of certain products containing cannabidiol (CBD). Specifically, the FDA provided a laundry list of examples where Curaleaf, Inc. (Curaleaf) made unsubstantiated claims on its website and on social media “that the products treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety, among other conditions or diseases.” The FDA considers Curaleaf’s actions as the “illegal selling of unapproved products,” pursuant to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

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The Department of Justice recently published its list of proposed regulatory actions for the near and long term.  It appears that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Regulatory Drafting and Support Section is going to have a busy year.  The Unified Agenda indicates several potential regulatory changes are in store for the coming year, some of which may have significant impact on the regulated community.

A few highlights:

  • Updates to the suspicious order regulation have been delayed to at least February 2019.
  • DEA will provide guidance for Emergency Medical Services wishing to handle controlled substances.
  • After more than nine years, DEA is finally implementing regulations regarding the practice of telemedicine, as required by Congress in the Ryan Haight Act.
  • Guidance is forthcoming regarding the partial filling of prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances as a result of related provisions in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016.
  • It appears that additional (and significant changes) will be coming to DEA’s quota process.
  • DEA is getting rid of the carbon copy 222 form! (for those too young to understand the concept of carbon copies, click here)

Below are links to each notification and a summary taken directly from the related Abstract.

Stay tuned. We will provide updates as they become available.


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Over a period of two weeks in June, the House passed several bills aimed at combating the ongoing opioid epidemic. Our summary of the earlier measures can be found here. Key points of these additional legislative initiatives are summarized below. We will continue to monitor and report on their progress.

R. 3192, CHIP Mental Health Parity Act
This bill required state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP programs) to cover mental health benefits including substance use disorder services for pregnant women and children. It also prohibits states from imposing financial or utilization limits on mental health treatment that are lower than the limits placed on physical health treatment.

R. 3331
Specifically, this bill encourages the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test models to provide incentive payments to behavioral health providers for adopting electronic health records technology, and using that technology to improve the quality and coordination of care.


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On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a fleet of bills aimed at combating the ongoing opioid crisis, most aimed at developing preventative measures to curb opioid addiction by funding research. The measures passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Key points of these legislative initiatives are summarized below. Quarles & Brady will continue to monitor their progress.

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