U.S. DEA relaxes production limits on controlled drugs for COVID-19 patients

(Reuters) – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said on Tuesday it was increasing production limits by 15% for certain controlled substance medicines that were in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The agency’s directive includes painkillers, such as fentanyl, morphine and hydromorphone, and certain cough or cold-medicine ingredients like codeine, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. 

U.S. doctors running out of narcotics needed for COVID-19 patients had asked the federal government to raise production limits for drugmakers, after national quotas had been tightened to address the opioid addiction crisis. (reut.rs/2Xk7P94

The DEA had previously reduced the overall fentanyl quota by over 30% for 2020. 

The agency said on Tuesday it would also increase the production allowance for opioid-addiction drug methadone to ensure that opioid treatment programs have sufficient supplies to treat patients suffering from opioid use disorder. 

“Although the existing 2020 quota level is sufficient to meet current needs, DEA is acting proactively to ensure that — should the public health emergency become more acute — there is sufficient quota for these important drugs,” it said. 

The DEA said it would also approve increases in imports of medications necessary for patients on ventilators, including painkiller ketamine, sedatives such as diazepam, midazolam, and lorazepam, and epilepsy drug phenobarbital. 

The agency said it would reevaluate demand after the coronavirus outbreak abates and would adjust production quotas as needed. 

The DEA last month agreed to relax inventory controls for manufacturers, allowing them to produce and store more than 65% of their annual quota throughout the duration of the emergency.

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