Senate takes bipartisan action to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable

Bipartisan legislation was introduced early this session to raise money to combat the opioid overdose epidemic that claimed the lives of hundreds of Minnesotans last year. The original legislation would have charged pharmaceutical companies a “penny-a-pill” for every opioid painkiller they sold. The goal of this effort is to raise $20 million each year to fund treatment and prevention programs.

In the face of immense pressure from the pharmaceutical industry, Senators opted to eliminate the fee and replace it was a registration fee on opiate manufacturers and wholesalers. This small but important change garnered more support from lawmakers while still ensuring funding to address the opioid epidemic comes from the industry. The bill continues to seek $20 million for efforts to combat the crisis, just a small sliver of the sky-rocketing profits made by manufacturers of opiates.

The bill was heard on the floor late this week and passed with significant bipartisan support on a 60-6 vote. Several lawmakers called out the pharmaceutical industry for failing to provide any public testimony, opting to wage their campaign to avoid accountability in the shadows. The Senate bill has managed to stay far stronger than the version in the House, which is funded entirely by state dollars, letting the industry of the hook entirely.

Advocates argue that drug manufacturers need to pay their fair share for the harm their products have caused and alleviate some of the financial burden borne almost entirely by taxpayers to address the crisis. There have been lawsuits filed across the country contending that drug companies knew how addictive opioids were, but still pushed for them to be widely prescribed. (SF 730)

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