Last December, as it has for years, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued its annual production quotas for controlled substances under its purview. The quotas affect both the import of finished drugs and ingredients, and production inside the US. In line with recently passed federal legislation and the public outcry over opioid-based drug abuse, the quotas were cut by double-digit rates for fentanyl, oxycodone and other opioid-based drugs.
Now, in a turnabout, DEA is raising the quota on these drugs by 15%. The reason: “medications that are in high demand due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.” DEA will also approve increases in imports of medications necessary for patients on ventilators. There has been a steady drumbeat of growing concern over the availability of drugs needed for Covid-19 patients, even as shortages of ventilators, personal protective equipment for healthcare providers and hospital beds have garnered headlines nationally.
The DEA switch doesn’t instantaneouly increase availability; drugs will need to be imported, or produced over the course of the year. DEA says that the adjustment anticipates future demand.