Local Lawmakers: Opioid Bill Targets Drug Companies
The Minnesota House passed a bill Monday night that they local DFL leaders say will hold drug companies accountable for costs related to the opioid crisis. Some lawmakers who support the bill say it will put Minnesota on the “cutting edge” of fighting the problem.
Under the House bill, Minnesota would raise annual registration fees for pharmaceutical companies and drug wholesalers that distribute or sell opioids.
“The pharmaceutical companies who have killed people with their opioid drugs are going to pay the price finally this year in the Minnesota House,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. “They are going to be part of the solution and they will be held accountable. That is absolutely essential to addressing this crisis. Making sure that the people who profited from the problem, profited from death, are the ones who help pay the price for fixing it.”
Bill Would Create Special Fund
The increased fees would generate $20 million a year. The money would go into a new “Opioid Stewardship Fund,” which would pay for a wide range of prevention and treatment strategies. A new advisory council would then make recommendations to state officials on how to spend the money.
According to those sponsoring the bill, opioid-related overdose deaths have increased steadily since 2010. In 2016, nearly 400 people died from opioids.
Local DFL leaders say it’s been tough to get something passed because big pharma “floods the Capitol with lobbyists.”
“We can’t prevent every opioid death,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “But we can’t defend not doing anything about the epidemic because there are 400 pharmaceutical lobbyists roaming the hill. We don’t pretend that we are gong to be able to wave a magic wand and create a new Minnesota. But we are undertaking the efforts to improve people’s lives.”
Winkler claims that the opioid crisis has taken such a toll that the CEO of Purdue Pharmaceuticals is considering bankruptcy, just to avoid responsibility because of the widespread damage he says the company has caused.
Republicans who voted against the bill say it will increase health care costs for everyone in Minnesota. The Senate version was scheduled for a hearing Tuesday.