Oregon Senator wants Drug Makers to Pay for Addiction Treatment

Senator Jeff Merkley at Podium

If there’s anything we know for certain about the opioid addiction epidemic, besides the fact that it killed over 50,000 Americans in 2017, it’s that drug makers make a lot of money each year and many who need treatment find themselves unable to pay for it. New legislation seeks to blend these two realities by making drug makers pay for addiction treatment. Yesterday Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the Opioid Treatment Surge Act to help make treatment more affordable and accessible to the over 22 million and counting in this country that need it. In a news release, Merkley pointed to drug manufacturers’ culpability, witting or otherwise, in the opioid addiction epidemic as well as the enormous profits they’ve reaped over the years selling these drugs.

What’s In the Bill?

The Opioid Treatment Surge Act seeks to inject $20 billion over the next ten years into resources that would help patients pay for addiction treatment; this would be accomplished by imposing a collective $2 billion per year fee on major opioid manufacturers. Each company’s portion of the fee would be based on their earnings from opioid sales every year going back to 1999–the year the opioid addiction crisis started reaching extreme heights. Revenue from the $2 billion fee will go to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, which is distributed to states to pay for addiction treatment.

A Continuing Trend of Accountability

Though this is the first piece of legislation that proposes they help pay for addiction treatment, drug makers are facing more and more legal action as the deaths continue to soar from their products. Most recently, 27 states filed suit against pharma giant Purdue, who posted $35 billion in earnings last year. As the United States Department of Justice Continues to weigh in on hundreds of other lawsuits that place these companies in the legal crosshairs, prevention and treatment advocates are hoping they result in increased accountability and more resources to treat and prevent opioid addiction as well as other types of substance use disorder.