Kolodny: “I think it’s a good idea.. to tax opiates/chronic pain pts”

Opioid Tax Proponents Pin Hopes on November Elections


After almost slapping a tax on makers of opioid pills earlier this year, Minnesota lawmakers are set to try again when they meet in January.

The drug manufacturers that helped create the opioid addiction crisis should help fix it, said state Sen. Chris Eaton, whose daughter died of an overdose.

“I’m definitely going to pursue it” in the next legislative session, said Eaton, a Democrat. “Whether it has a chance or not kind of depends on the election.”

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states intend to consider opioid taxes in upcoming legislative sessions. Many pin their hopes on the November midterm elections.

If Democrats retake governorships and legislatures this fall, lawmakers and policy analysts predict other states would be more likely to follow New York, whose groundbreaking opioid tax to raise $100 million a year took effect July 1.

November results “are absolutely going to drive some of this,” said Tara Ryan, vice president of state government affairs for the Association for Accessible Medicines, which represents makers of generic medications and opposes opioid taxes. “If the Democrats take the elections, like some people say they will, it could definitely change the votes.”

California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont are all eyeing renewed attempts to pass opioid taxes, officials in those states say. The proceeds would mostly pay for addiction treatment and prevention.

“We’ll be back come January,” said Tim Ashe, president pro tempore of the Vermont Senate, which overwhelmingly passed a tax measure this year that faded in the House and was opposed by the state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, who is up for re-election.

New York’s law taxes manufacturers and distributors according to an opioid medication’s strength and will direct proceeds toward addiction treatment, prevention and education. The tax is expected to amount to roughly a dime per lower-strength opioid pill and higher for more powerful ones.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Andrew Kolodny, an opioid-policy researcher at Brandeis University and frequent critic of the pharma industry. “The human and economic costs of these meds are enormous.”

Adding to the momentum is frequent support from Republicans, who are normally reluctant to tax businesses.

“I’m probably the No. 2 or 3 most conservative individual in the legislature, and I’m standing up there proposing a[n opioid] sales tax,” said Montana Republican Sen. Roger Webb.

But an industry backlash is growing. An association representing pharmaceutical distributors sued in July to block the New York law, arguing that those businesses were unfairly targeted.

Pharma’s main trade group has also fought hard against such measures, arguing they drive up the cost of medicine and unfairly penalize patients with chronic pain.

“We do not believe levying a tax on prescribed medicines that meet legitimate medical needs is an appropriate funding mechanism for a state’s budget,” said Priscilla VanderVeer, spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA.

New York’s law prohibits passing the tax on to consumers and other purchasers such as insurance companies, but enforcing that could be tricky, according to legal experts.

The Association for Accessible Medicines opposes all opioid taxes but especially objects to that measure because it taxes drugs per pill rather than according to revenue. That puts most of the burden on makers of cheap generics and largely spares brand-name sellers, whose marketing helped fuel the addiction crisis, Ryan said.

Drugmakers will prove to be tough opponents regardless of electoral outcomes, said Regina LaBelle, a visiting fellow at Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy who worked on drug strategy in the Obama White House.

“These types of taxes face an uphill battle in state legislatures as powerful forces, including industry and industry-funded groups, ally against them,” she said. Pharma-funded chronic-pain patients can be a powerful lobby, she said.

Surging mortality rates caused by fentanyl, heroin and other illegal opioids give pharma companies a chance to deny blame, even if many of those victims became addicted through prescription pills, LaBelle said.

Drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 people last year, a record, according to new, preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dozens of cities, counties and states have sued opioid makers and distributors, arguing the companies downplayed the dangers of addictive pills and ignored signs they were being abused on a massive scale. Often compared to litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s, the cases could produce billions of dollars in government revenue to fight addiction and overdose.

But that could take years. Through opioid taxes and related measures, states could quickly supplement addiction-prevention funds made available by Washington, which many consider inadequate and unpredictable.

Members of Congress have pushed more opioid legislation this summer, but the House’s package so far has no clear path to becoming law.

Federal funding “is a drop in the bucket,” said Patrick Diegnan, a Democratic New Jersey state senator who backed an opioid tax this year. “We really basically have to put in place the infrastructure for treatment. It will cost a lot of money.”

Minnesota’s proposed opioid tax had bipartisan support this year, passing the state Senate by a huge margin. But under heavy pressure from drug companies, a measure in the Republican-controlled house failed at the end of the legislative session in May.

In the governor’s race this fall, Tim Walz, a Democratic congressman, faces Jeff Johnson, a county commissioner who upset former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the Republican primary.

Minnesota recently got Washington’s permission to bill Medicaid, the state and federal program designed for low-income people, for psychiatric hospital stays for those with intense addiction-treatment needs.

But none of the moves so far will furnish resources adequate to relieve the crisis, argue patient advocates. Many see an element of justice in making opioid companies contribute.

“Why is it important for the drug industry to pay reparations?” said Lexi Reed Holtum, executive director of the Steve Rummler Hope Network, a Minnesota advocacy group named for her fiancé, who died of an overdose in 2011. “No matter what, this is going to go on for decades to come.”

6 Responses

  1. I say we arrest every person who has made-up data,words,new definitions about this false ,”addiction epidemic,” and charge them w/murder,torture,and genocide of any humanbeings who were forced to use death,,to stop their physical pain from a medical illness,,and I say mr.klondny,,,u first!!!maryw

  2. Let me guess – This tax would exempt Kolodny’s precious buprenorphine (a synthetic opioid about 40 times more potent than morphine and the main ingredient in Suboxone).

  3. Voters have to look at candidates records. Voting for or against a candidate on one topic alone is not an educated vote.

    It sounds like the writer of this article is for Republicans. They are targeting a segment of voters with fear of what might be. Bottom line it doesn’t matter who is elected. If it is advantageous to a politician to vote yes on something. They will vote yes. The opioid crisis seems to be one of the few things. the majority of Republicans and Democrats agree on most of the time

  4. It’s ironic that our government is trying to tax Per Pill opioid meds when the meds are NOT the main cause of this “epidemic”. The Truth is that Less than 3% of all Legally prescribed opioid patients ever abuse or get addicted to the opioid meds in any way! In NY governor Cuomo is using this as a money grab! That’s his motivation for the proposed tax. The DEA and CDC quietly admitted to grossly Skewing all their information or outright Lying about the epidemic last year, by Nobody talks about that!? Three states have started to do actual medical reports on the od victims. So far they said that the average OD had 6 different drugs and alcohol in their systems. Up to now they admittedly have been guessing about how the people od! The CDC guidelines were secretly done After hours illegally so they could not be confronted by the truth before putting it in place. This is all BS and our government actually Manufactured this False”prescription opioid epidemic” because they have Been working for the Special interest groups fat least 4 years that even I can prove. Big pharma is making Millions more in profits each Month than they were before this. Yes, big pharma is guilty of not openly telling everyone about the addiction possibility. Yes, that Less than 3% adds up, but it’s not nearly as much as they tell us. Look at the costs of the addiction meds. Look at all the different special interest groups that are making Millions this epidemic. Yet the actual addict’s are barely getting the help they need. This always has and will be all about money, nothing else for the businesses and Politicians! I think theReversing this crap will be the main platform for the next election. All they have and continue to do is inhumanely Torture the innocent chronic pain patients! Kolodny and Sessions are Directly making profits off this. Even the governor in the article is Not telling us what illegal street drugs his daughter was using. Just more of the same lies. All this can be researched by Anyone with Internet, but so far people just blindly and prejudicely follow the lies instead of doing any research! Society is ignorant because of our government and media. They “care” about the addict’s, but Not the innocent chronic pain patients!

  5. This just goes to further what I have believed since the very beginning of this nonsensical farce. This “war” is less about combating addiction and more about greasing the wheels on their money machine. However, here is an example of what a non-cpp posted the other day on a video news report that heartily clapped the backs of those that are the masterminds behind this cockamamie crap. They commented, stating that deaths are not profitable, that natural cures are being deliberately withheld from the public, that most persons around age 40 were on dozens of medications and that big pharma wishes to keep the public as ill as they can. There were some more statements heavily laden with propagandized and factually inaccurate data and numbers thrown in as well, but those were the main focus of their comment, which only mundanely parroted what the general public has been spoon-fed. Whether or not all of that is true, I’ll not get into here right now. The reason I mentioned this is the first statement, that death is not profitable is absolutely and in my opinion, inarguably, false. Why would the general population of those without chronic illness think that this is even remotely true? The gov has been looking for ways to cut funding to Medicaid and human services for, quite literally, years. Private insurance companies have been lamenting the fact that complex patients, like the majority of those suffering chronic pain and illness, the elderly and the disabled, etc. cost more over the course of their lifetimes than the average, healthy portion of the population does for years. So when CPP’s start to drop like flies due to unfair and ridiculously insane restrictions, guidelines, laws, rules, legislations, whatever name you want to hang on them, how is that unprofitable? The “powers that be” are thinking in the long term here. I cannot understand how anyone could ignore the fact that this has obviously been a factor in some of these things, if not the carefully concealed force behind it. I guess maybe the reason it’s easier to accept the explanation behind their actions, being that of the sudden and extreme urgency to stomp out addiction through the awful, poorly thought out strategies of eradicating those evil opioids and access to them except for those with terminal cancer (although this is debatable as well), is that it trying to see the light when your head is buried in the sand is notoriously difficult. I still can’t even figure out why or how the public doesn’t seem to understand that one day they may find themselves in an unfortunate predicament, having developed chronic pain as well, so what do I know? However, I do know that even if I didn’t have chronic pain myself, I believe I could recognize the potential implications of what sitting back, watching all of this go down without question could bring. I would find it utterly horrific when considering that myself or someone that I love may have to one day suffer, without any recourse, because of the glaring lack of empathy and compassion for those that have chronic pain and illness. All in the name of saving people. Save a few, sacrifice a few. I already recognize the terrifying implications that the general public seems to be completely fine with or somehow ignorant to, in regards to the amount of overreach and handholding by the medically incompetent political figures spearheading this effort. If you open the door, you bet they’re going to repeatedly walk through it. How is it that you can be okay with what is occuring, when it is bound to move on to something that has a deep impact on you, probably sooner than later? No one is questioning it, except those that are being directly affected. No one wants to put a stop to it, except those that are being directly and immediately affected. I personally believe that this is only the beginning. Maybe I have a touch of conspiracy theorist in me. Maybe my intuition is speaking to me this. Only time will tell but I can’t help thinking that politicians are ever the opportunists and this is a grand of an opportunity for them as there ever has been. Taxing pain patients is only one way to get their hands on the almighty dollar. This war is a proverbial “cash cow”, making them sorely undeserved money off of the physically challenged portion of the population. I never thought I would live to see the day that something as unbelievably ugly as this would happen on American soil, without the masses rising up and rallying against it. Instead, they applaud and furiously announce their support. RIP common sense, decency, compassion and logic. You will be dearly missed by some. But hey, as long as somebody gives “reparations”, who cares if pain patients are bankrupted in an effort to maintain whatever sliver of “life” and comfort we are afforded by the pitiful amount of medication we are allowed, even if it is woefully inadequate. As long as somebody pays dearly for the people that have been hurt by addiction. Even if it is the other people that are being hurt by addiction. Somebody MUST pay!!

  6. If you put a tax on opiods..you must,tax all medicines..just because someone’s daughter died of a drug overdose..was he,in denial that his daughter was a drug addict..tax one tax them all.

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