Watchdog finds DEA was ‘slow to respond’ to opioid epidemic

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department’s inspector general says the Drug Enforcement Administration was “slow to respond” as America grappled with a rising opioid epidemic.

The watchdog released a report Tuesday examining the agency’s regulatory and enforcement efforts to control opioids. It found that as the number of opioid-related deaths drastically increased between 2013 and 2017, the DEA significantly reduced using its strongest enforcement tool to try to combat the illegal diversion of painkillers.

It also found the DEA raised the annual quota of the amount of oxycodone that can be manufactured by nearly 400 percent from 2002 to 2013.

In the report, weaknesses were identified in the DEA’s registration process, which allowed manufacturers, distributors and health care providers to immediately reapply after their registration was revoked or surrendered.

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