December 6, 2018 3:45 a.m.
In the wake of new data showing a record number of opioid overdose deaths, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the Opioid Treatment Surge Act on Wednesday.
A release from Merkley, said the legislation is designed to fund a big increase in treatment capacity by imposing fees on the drug companies that created the opioid crisis.
Merkley claims that drug companies flooded the market with massive quantities of opioids to “enrich themselves while a generation of Americans got hooked”. Merkley said its time for those companies to commit a portion of those profits to dramatically increasing treatment capacity to address the crisis.
Merkley said he has heard “heart-wrenching stories from Oregonians who have lost loved ones after a prescription for an injury or treatment has turned into an addiction”. He said too often people are looking for treatment to help kick the addiction, and its not available. He said an enormous spike in addictions requires an enormous spike in treatment capacity. The senator said that “it’s only right that the companies that profited creating the problem help pay for the solutions”.
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017. That was a 45 percent increase in deaths involving opioids. In 2013, about 3,000 deaths were associated with opioids, while last year about 28,000 people died due to an opioid overdose, according to the Merkley release.
The bill would establish a $2 billion dollar per year treatment surge for the next ten years, paid for by a fee imposed on opioid manufacturers. The release said the bill provides exceptions to the fee for opioids used exclusively to treat opioid addiction, as part of a medically assisted treatment effort. An exception would also be for opioids used for cancer or hospice patients.
Revenue from the fee would go to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, which is distributed to states to pay for addiction treatment.