ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota House voted Monday night to hold drug manufacturers responsible for the state’s growing costs for dealing with the opioid crisis.

The bill passed 94-34 after around four hours of debate that split mostly along party lines. It would support a wide range of prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies. The state would pay for them by sharply raising its currently low annual registration fees for pharmaceutical manufacturers and drug wholesalers that sell or distribute opioids in Minnesota.

The fees would bring in $20 million a year that would go into a new “Opioid Stewardship Fund.” A new advisory council would then make recommendations to state officials on how to spend it. Any settlements that the state reaches from opioid lawsuits against drug companies would also be deposited into the fund.

An opioid bill with some differences is working its way through the GOP-controlled Senate and has another hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The two versions are expected to go to a conference committee for resolution.

According to the sponsors, opioid-involved overdoses led to more than 2,000 visits to Minnesota emergency rooms in 2017, while opioid-related overdose deaths in Minnesota have increased steadily since 2010, to 395 in 2016.

The lead author, Rep. Liz Olson, told her colleagues that taxpayers have been among the hardest hit by the opioid crisis. “This cost of responding to this crisis is huge, and it’s hard to even calculate,” the Duluth Democrat said. As just one example, she said, county social service agencies are “drowning” in costs for placing children from affected families into other homes.

But Olson said one sector has benefited from opioids while failing to step forward to combat the epidemic — the pharmaceutical industry.

“With profits in the hundreds of millions, these groups have still not come to the table,” she said.

Rep. Dave Baker, of Willmar, whose son, Dan Baker, became addicted to opioid painkillers and died of a heroin overdose in 2011, was among the Republicans supporting the bill. He said it would put Minnesota on the “cutting edge” of fighting the opioid crisis.

Baker was a chief author of a bill with a different funding mechanism, dubbed “penny a pill,” which passed the Senate last year but failed to get a House floor vote amid industry opposition. Since then, Democrats have taken control of the House.

Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, who was speaker last session, led the opposition, saying imposing higher costs on the industry runs counter to the goal of reducing health care costs for consumers.

“This will literally increase the cost of health care for every Minnesotan,” he said.

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  1. Cara Schulz says:

    I wish reporters would start including the actual statistics and studies which show the narrative pushed by politicians is utterly false. Patients taking medications under the care of a doctor to manage pain are not the problem. Politicians are looking for money and they are willing to harm patients in the process. Not only does this Bill raise prescription drug prices for all Minnesotans, it restricts doctors from managing pain in their patients and providing individualized care. Patients now also have to provide a valid ID to get their medications, too.

    Today’s nonmedical opioid users are not yesterday’s patients; implications of data indicating stable rates of nonmedical use and pain reliever use disorder
    Jeffrey A Singer, Jacob Z Sullum, and Michael E Schatman
    “The epidemic of drug overdoses in the United States has been inexorably tracking along an exponential growth curve since at least 1979, well before the surge in opioid prescribing in the mid-1990s.”

    Less than 1% of those who were screened for drug problems developed new addictions during pain care.
    Cochrane Review, Opioid Prescribing for Chronic Pain, January 2010, Noble M, Treadwell JR, Tregear SJ, Coates VH, Wiffen PJ, Akafomo C, Schoelles KM, Chou R

    Chronic pain is the number 1 reason Americans go on disability.
    Hoy D, March L, Brooks P, et al The global burden of low back pain: estimates from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases Published Online First: 24 March 2014. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-204428

    100 million American adults live with chronic pain, many of them with pain so bad it wrecks their work, their families, their mental health and their lives
    Institute of Medicine (IOM) “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research,”

    635 billion in direct costs
    Institute of Medicine (IOM) “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research,”

    It’s also the second most common reason people kill themselves. An estimated 6170 Americans kill themselves each year due to unmanaged chronic pain.
    Psychology Today, “Chronic Pain and the Risk of Suicide”

    Drug related death rate for people who take opioids prescribed for them is 0.0022 per 1,000.
    Cohort Study of the Impact of High-Dose Opioid Analgesics on Overdose Mortality. Dasgupta N, Funk MJ, Proescholdbell S, Hirsch A, Ribisl KM, Marshall S.

    The insurance industry looked at roughly 1 million insurance claims for opioid prescriptions. They found that just less than five percent of patients misused the drugs by getting prescriptions for them from multiple doctors.
    Scientific American, Opioid Addiction Is a Huge Problem, but Pain Prescriptions Are Not the Cause, Maia Szalavitz, May 10, 2016

    90 percent of all addictions—no matter what the drug—start in the adolescent and young adult years. Typically, young people who misuse prescription opioids are heavy users of alcohol. This type of alcohol abuse, not medical treatment with opioids, is by far the greatest risk factor for opioid addiction, according to a study by University of Michigan. Monitoring the Future survey
    Scientific American, Opioid Addiction Is a Huge Problem, but Pain Prescriptions Are Not the Cause, Maia Szalavitz, May 10, 2016