DEA to share prescription drug data with 50 attorneys general, crack down on drugmakers

Jeff Sessions
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new prescription data sharing agreement between the DEA and states on Tuesday. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Drug Enforcement Agency has reached an agreement with 50 attorneys general to share prescription drug data with one another to support ongoing investigations.

As part of the agreement, the DEA will provide attorneys general in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with data from its Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS), which collects 80 million prescription drug transactions from manufacturers and distributors each year.

Delaware and Arkansas are the only two states not participating in the data-sharing agreement, according to a DEA spokesperson Barbara Carreno. 

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"DEA has not been made aware of their individual decisions not to participate in the coalition," she said. 

In return, states will provide the federal agency with their own data from prescription drug monitoring programs, according to an announcement.

The announcement comes months after President Trump’s opioid commission threw its support behind the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Act, which would provide funding for a DOJ-led data sharing hub.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions briefly discussed the new agreement during a speech in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday, where he discussed the Trump administration’s plan to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. He said the data-sharing pact will “make both the DEA and our state partners more effective at finding evidence of crime.”

RELATED: Trump’s opioid commission recommends PDMP enhancements, federal data hub

Exactly how that data sharing agreement would operate remains fuzzy. A DEA spokesperson had not yet answered questions about whether the agency would create a new platform and whether states would be able to share prescription data with one another.

A nationally interoperable PDMP, part of a plan unveiled by the Trump administration last month, is popular among addiction experts. But the DEAs agreement appears limited to state investigators and enforcement rather than clinicians.

Sessions also said the DEA plans to issue a proposed change to the way it sets opioid production, allowing the agency to reduce the amount of opioids a company can manufacture if it believes that company’s opioids are being diverted for misuse.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who introduced legislation repealing a 2016 bill that restricted the DEA’s ability to crack down on manufacturers suspected of wrongdoing, called the proposal “an appropriate step,” but urged Congress to take further action.

RELATED: New DOJ unit will use data analytics to combat opioid fraud

Enforcement has been a focal point in the Trump administration's approach to the opioid crisis. Last year, the DOJ created the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit to focus on using data to track down individuals illegally distributing opioids.

Over the last several months, the DEA has arrested nearly 30 medical professionals and revoked the licenses of 147 prescribers. President Trump has also pushed for tougher enforcement of drug dealers, even advocating for the death penalty.

In his speech on Tuesday, Sessions credited the crackdown to the agency's reliance on prescribing data to identify hotspots.

“This sort of data analytics team can tell us important information, like who is prescribing the most drugs, who is dispensing the most drugs and whose patients are dying of overdose," he said. 

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