Opioids: Solving the problem should not fall fully on taxpayers’ backs

A recent letter said that an opioid tax might restrict access to patients for these medications, or better yet it “could increase the cost of health care.” Wow, let’s get a 101 on how we got here.

Opioids have been around in medicine for 100 years, but it all changed when Purdue Pharma in the 1990s launched a campaign that brought us the “5th vital sign” so docs had to ask patients what their pain number was, and created a super-intense oxycodone that was extended-release — creating a demand like never before. Opioids were delivered to our communities in a deceitful manner. But let’s talk about the cost and who should pay.

I own a restaurant in Willmar and pay roughly $5,000 to sell beer and liquor per year for my on-sale license. Alcohol causes issues in society, and that’s why we pay a premium for this. Minnesota has approximately 75 companies that sell opioids all over the state. Each company and the distributors pay an annual license of $235. They have made millions of dollars in profit while doing virtually nothing in the past 20 years to help. But Minnesota taxpayers have paid dearly from lost workforce, treatment centers, educating first responders, and the list goes on. So what do you think? One little bar pays $5,000 and people think $235 in license fees to Big Pharma is fine?

Don’t you think the cost of this epidemic ought to be shared with the industry that snuck it in the back door to begin with? This should NOT fully fall on the taxpayers’ backs. Nobody wants to restrict this medicine when truly needed; however, to see so much arrogance firsthand during last year’s legislative session would make most people sick. We need to reform the license fees now when it comes to opioid dispensing. It’s literally killing us — and shouldn’t fall on all of us!

Dave Baker is a state representative from Willmar.

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