Senator Chris Eaton: Holding big pharma and opioid distributors accountable
St. Paul, Minn — Senator Chris Eaton (DFL-Brooklyn Center) was pleased the Minnesota Senate passed the opiate stewardship bill today, which finally holds the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
The legislation charges a registration fee on manufacturers and wholesale distributors. The funding collected from the registration fees will go to an Opiate Stewardship Account. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies must annually report to the Board of Pharmacy each sale, delivery, and distribution of an opiate. The information will be used to set the registration fees.
The bulk of the funds collected will be provided to counties for child protection activities associated with addiction and the remaining will be for grants determined by a new Opiate Stewardship Advisory Council.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, what your social or economic status is, or your ethnicity, there are too many people and families negatively affected by opioids,” Sen. Eaton said. “This legislation goes after the folks who have played a huge role in hurting our communities and it is time they step up to the table to pay for the crisis they helped create.”
Minnesota Department of Health data shows the state had 395 opioid deaths in 2016, an 18 percent increase over 2015. Of those 395 deaths, 194 were linked to prescription opioids.
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. Despite mounting pressure, the industry has largely managed to curtail efforts to hold them accountable. “Today we took the first step in changing that,” Sen. Eaton said. “Today we took the first step in having manufacturers and distributors be accountable for their actions. We have a long way to go in combating this crisis, at least now we have a funding source, coming from those responsible to start finding solutions.”