Bipartisan bill would make drug makers pay for opioid crisis
Governor Dayton and a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a plan Wednesday to take on the prescription opioid epidemic by imposing a fee on drug makers that would be used to fund opioid prevention and treatment programs.

The number of people dying from opioid overdoses is on the rise. In 2016, 395 people died from opioid overdoses in Minnesota. That's an 18 percent increase from 2015. In Hennepin County alone, there were 162 opioid-related deaths in 2017, a 47 percent increase from 2015.

The rising number of overdoses is why lawmakers revealed a plan to tackle the crisis by charging drug companies a penny on each milligram of active ingredient in a prescription pain pill. That money, about $20 million each year, would fund prevention and opioid treatment programs.

For state Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, the issue is personal. Eaton's daughter, Ariel Eaton-Willson, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. Another lawmaker, Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, also lost a child to opioid addiction, and joined Governor Dayton to reveal the proposal Wednesday.

Eaton believes drug companies owe reparations to help reverse the epidemic.

"I know that the pharmaceutical companies had the data, they had the studies that showed them that these drugs were dangerously addictive," said Eaton. "And they did pursue trying to get doctors to prescribe them more to make money. And whether or not their intention was to addict the populous or not, that's what happened."

The penny-a-pill fee proposal had bipartisan support Wednesday at the Capitol. The new legislative session begins Feb. 20.

Alexandra Renslo reporting
Twitter: @alexrenslo

February 14, 2018


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