Letter of Request: Hold Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Responsible in Opioid Crisis

April 19, 2018

The Honorable Julie Rosen
Minnesota Senate
95 University Avenue W.
Minnesota Senate Bldg., Room 3235
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Senator Rosen,

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice for the Catholic Church in Minnesota, writes to ask that you do not amend your bill, SF 730, the “Opioid Stewardship Program” bill, in the way that HF 1440 was amended in the House. The language in your bill places the financial responsibility for fighting this epidemic in the appropriate hands, the pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the House bill, as amended, exonerates those same entities and passes the buck onto the taxpayer. Although the worthwhile treatment, prevention, and education programs called for in the bill will still get funded under the House proposal, it will send the wrong message to the industry and to the public—that the companies who produce and aggressively market addictive drugs are not responsible for helping to mitigate the problems that have been caused.

The present opioid crisis facing this country is due in no small part to the actions of pharmaceutical companies. Through aggressive marketing campaigns beginning in the 1990s, widespread use of lobbying campaigns to encourage opioid prescribing practices and discourage regulations against opioid use, and incentive and promotion programs to get physicians to prescribe opioids with greater frequency, pharmaceutical manufacturers have helped create the problem; they should contribute to the solution.

The “penny-a-pill” language in SF 730, with the creation of a one cent per milligram stewardship fee, will certainly not place a significant financial burden on the multi-billion-dollar industry and will be a public acknowledgement of the drug industry’s role in getting us where we are today with opioid addiction.  It is unlikely that, in the aggregate, such costs will be passed on to consumers in such a way that they will be felt in the pocketbooks of Minnesotans.

The lives negatively impacted by this disaster represent all categories of people, regardless of economic status, age, sex, race, or religious or political affiliation. The impact is far-reaching, leading to the eventual breakdown of families, friendships, neighborhoods, and communities. All of us have a responsibility to do what we can to offer help, support, and comfort to those who have formed an addiction to prescription pain killers, as well as to those individuals who have formed an addiction to illegal drugs. This responsibility includes the manufacturers themselves.

We support the idea of creating an opioid stewardship fund, but we see the recent changes to the House version as moving in the wrong direction.  We urge you and members of the Minnesota Senate to keep the language of SF 730 as is, hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their actions, and not place the financial burden on the taxpayers of Minnesota.  Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Shawn M. Peterson
Associate Director for Public Policy


cc:        Senator Paul Gazelka; Senator Michelle Benson; Senator Jim Abeler

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