Tim Pearce on July 11, 2018

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finalized rules Wednesday establishing new safeguards and processes to ensure opioid manufacturers are producing only enough painkillers to fill legitimate medical need, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced in a press release.

The DEA rule change is in direct response to a lawsuit Morrisey filed against the agency in December, pushing the agency to review how it determines drug quotas — the amount of opioids manufactures are allowed to produce to meet market demand. This does not include import regulations of potentially habit forming Indonesian plant kratom, which has been scrutinized for its ease of access and recent aggressive marketing of kratom pills and capsules.

“We must do everything to reduce the oversupply of opioid painkillers,” Morrisey, a Republican, said in a statement. “The reforms accomplished through this rule and our lawsuit are the first steps toward changing a fundamentally flawed system that for too long placed industry wants over the legitimate medical need and contributed to increased crime, higher medical costs, strained emergency services, greater reliance on foster care and far too many senseless deaths.”

The DEA will set drug quotas based on input from states and other federal agencies, rather than just industry estimates, according to the new rules. The new quota will also account for the number of opioids flowing into the black market, and states will have the ability to call an administrative hearing in Washington, D.C., to show evidence of excess opioids and drug abuse.

The finalized rule is a massive victory for Morrisey, who has criticized the DEA’s handling of the opioid crisis and the programs and processes that exacerbated it. The opioid crisis hit West Virginia harder than nearly any other state in the U.S.

Morrisey has been particularly critical of the Obama administration, under which the opioid crisis in the U.S. spread like a “raging inferno.”

“The Obama DEA’s broken quota system resulted in unconstrained and unvalidated increases each year for the past decade that fueled the drug epidemic,” Morrisey wrote in support of the DEA’s rule when it was proposed. “It is as if the Obama DEA soaked our nation with gasoline that puddled and pooled in vulnerable communities where rampant criminal and negligent conduct ignited this dangerous excess opioid supply into a raging inferno of tragic destruction and death.”

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