Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader today questioned the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on its role in barriers faced by people seeking death with dignity, including prohibitively high costs and availability of medication prescribed by physicians.
In a letter to DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon, the Oregon lawmakers asked for details on the agency’s process for approving applications to import medication used for death with dignity, or “medical aid in dying”, specifically the commonly prescribed and short-acting barbiturates pentobarbital and secobarbital. Although approximately 20 percent of the United States population now lives in a state where medical aid in dying is legal, it remains difficult for people to access the medications prescribed by their physicians. The DEA has the authority to approve the importation of certain drugs, including pentobarbital and secobarbital, yet applications are currently languishing at the agency to import these medications and lower the cost of end of life decisions for people choosing death with dignity.
“People facing a terminal illness should be able to spend their remaining days with loved ones. They should not have to struggle to locate medicine that allows them to determine their end of life story, or worry about the financial impact on them and the loved ones they leave behind,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers requested that the DEA provide answers to the following questions by December 5, 2019:
- Please provide a list of all applications that have been approved for the importation and registration of pentobarbital or secobarbital since 2014. Please include the date of the approval, the quantity that was approved for importation, the specific basis for approval under the Controlled Substances Act, and the current status of the registration.
- Please provide a list of all applications that have either been withdrawn or denied for the importation and registration of pentobarbital or secobarbital since 2014. Please include the date of withdrawal or denial, the quantity that was requested, and the reason for withdrawal or denial.
- Please provide a list of all pending applications for the importation and registration of pentobarbital or secobarbital.
- What factors does the DEA use to determine whether an application for pentobarbital or secobarbital is intended for legitimate use under the Controlled Substances Act?
- To what extent does cost or availability of the medicine factor into the approval of an application?
A copy of the letter can be found here.