Other’s opinion: Opioids: Bipartisan plan will bring needed help

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Feb. 05—There is renewed support for opioid legislation this year and renewed hope for those families who have lost loved ones to the devastation of opioid addiction.

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A rally last week to support the legislation included relatives of Prince, the Minnesota rock star who died of an opioid overdose in 2016. And the same folks, Republicans and Democrats, who supported the bill last year were there again, calling for a plan to prevent opioid abuse and support those struggling with addition.

A bipartisan group of legislators have lost family members to opioid abuse. GOP Rep. Dave Baker, of Willmar, sponsored the legislation last year. His son died of an overdose in 2011.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, also led the charge on a plan to impose fees on pharmaceutical companies to pay for the program.

The plan initially called for charging pharmaceutical companies a penny a pill. When that idea was thwarted by the pharmaceutical lobby, the plan was changed to a fee on pharmaceutical companies. It passed 60-6 in the Senate and would have raised $20 million, compared to the current fee per company of just $235.

A version of that plan has been resurrected with hopes of it passing now that the DFL has the majority in the Minnesota House. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan also said it was a priority of the Walz administration to get the bill passed.

Deaths in Minnesota from opioid abuse increased to 422 in 2017 from 396 in 2016. But there’s also a growing problem with deaths related to synthetics such as fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times strong than typical morphine painkillers. Those deaths in Minnesota rose from 99 to 184 from 2016 to 2017, according to the CDC.

Despite the bipartisan support the bills had last year, GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt quashed the legislation, saying it looked like a “tax” on pharmaceutical companies.

We’re glad that line of thinking has fallen by the wayside and that Daudt no longer controls the House. Pharmaceutical companies again object to the legislation, saying it imposes fees on legitimate medicine.

We hope people are done with that reasoning also. A bipartisan group of legislators tried to address Minnesota’s opioid crisis last year. It didn’t go anywhere. Unfortunately, more people suffered as another year went by.

It’s time to act swiftly the plan to raise licensing fees on pharmaceutical companies and hold them to account for the crisis they created.