The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) allowed manufacturers of highly addictive opioids to substantially increase the number of pills they were producing despite a growing number of drug overdoses across the country, Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in a report critiquing the DEA in the midst of a national opioid epidemic.

From 1999 to 2013, deaths from drug overdoses increased an average of 8%. But from 2013 to 2017, that number skyrocketed to 71%. Meanwhile, the DEA, an agency charged with setting yearly quotas for opioids manufactured in the United States, authorized a more than 400% increase of oxycodone (OxyContin) between 2002 to 2013.

“We found that DEA was slow to respond to the significant increase in the use and diversion of opioids since 2000,” Horowitz wrote in the report. “We also found that DEA did not use its available resources, including its data systems and strongest administrative enforcement tools, to detect and regulate diversion effectively.”

Thousands of lawsuits are holding opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for overdose deaths and economic damages to individuals as well as entire communities, and say the drug companies allowed billions of pills to be diverted to the streets.

The companies have argued that they only produce the number of pills as the DEA allows. The DEA says its production estimates are based on data provided by the companies, as well as federal limits. Drug companies also argue that cutting back on production will prevent legitimate users of opioids from getting the medications they need.

DEA spokeswoman Mary A. Brandenberger said that the DEA has significantly reduced opioid production levels over the past three years. Opioid prescriptions have also declined, she said.

Beasley Allen has an Opioid Litigation Team that includes these lawyers: Rhon Jones, Parker Miller, Ryan Kral, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton, Roger Smith and Jeff Price. This team represents the State of Alabama, the State of Georgia, and numerous local governments, as well as other entities in multidistrict litigation.

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