American pharmaceutical companies may soon produce fewer opioid pills.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the Drug Enforcement Administration to consider changing the number of opioid dosages that companies are allowed to manufacture every year.
The move came after the West Virginia attorney general sued the DEA to change how it determines quotas for drug manufacturers.
“DEA’s quota program relies almost entirely on just a single piece of dangerously deceptive information: the estimated amount of the drugs the industry can sell each year,” reads a court filing from the state attorney general.
According to the suit, the DEA decides how many drug dosages to let drug companies manufacture based on how many dosages they can sell.
“DEA’s process conflates what industry wants with what Americans need,” the filing charges.
The opioid epidemic has taken a devastating toll on West Virginia, where a single town received more than 20.8 million prescription painkillers from 2008 to 2015, according to a House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation. The state had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2016 at 52 per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
West Virginia sued the DEA on Dec. 8, 2017, but didn’t publicize the litigation. Over the following months, according to the filing, they negotiated with the DEA over how to resolve the matter. A federal judge extended the DEA’s deadline to respond to the state several times.
Just before the final deadline hit, Sessions announced he was directing the DEA to revisit its manufacturing quotas. And the West Virginia attorney general put his lawsuit on ice.
“Time is of the essence,” Sessions said in a statement on the change.