Lawmakers renew effort to make drug companies pay for opioid crisis

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Minnesota lawmakers are once again trying to make drug companies help pay for the opioid crisis. Last year’s effort didn’t make it out of the House, but this year, a Senate bill is gaining support and is taking a different approach.

Opioid addictions that start with prescription meds and lead to powerful street drugs have already taken hundreds of lives in Minnesota. Doctors, law enforcement and even lawmakers have struggled to keep up.

“We are certainly in an emergency here in this state,” said Sen. Julie Rosen.

Rosen’s bill makes drug makers part of the funding solution to the crisis by raising the licensing fees on drug makers from the current $235 a year up to $5,000 – even $55,000 for opioid manufacturers.

It would create a $20-million fund.  

Half of that money would be split between drug treatment programs and counties, which have high out of home placement costs for addicts.

“We have seen out of home placement - children pulled out of their homes - increase dramatically because of drug abuse and mostly opioids,” Rosen said.  

Though the bill passed through three senate committees, it does have opposition.

In a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Americans for Prosperity wrote that they believe drug makers will pass on the higher fees to consumers. 

“Punishing Minnesota patients by making them pay more for the care and medication they need is not the answer,” they wrote.

But Rosen believes the state cannot afford to do nothing.

“That’s why I am expecting, demanding all the players and that includes the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers and distributors to be at the table and help with this crisis.”  

The bill has three more stops before it reaches the Senate floor. A different bill in the House assesses registration fees on drug makers based upon the amount of drugs they sell in the state.