House passes bill that will tax opioid companies with revenues used for treatment, research

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The Delaware House passed legislation that taxes opiods and sent the measure to Gov. John Carney’s desk.

The bill passed the House 33-8. Last month the Senate passed it 17-4.

Senate Bill 34 requires drug makers responsible for the state’s opioid crisis to help pay for additional research and addiction treatment options in Delaware. Those initiatives would be funded by an opioid impact fee, a levy assessed on pharmaceutical manufacturers based on the strength of the opioids they sell in Delaware.

“This is about holding drug companies accountable for the role their products played in creating this epidemic. These drug companies have relied on the business of deception, marketing and selling prescription opioids as the addiction epidemic damages states across the country. It’s only fair that this industry helps to pay for some of the harm,” said Rep. David Bentz, D-Christiana.

State officials estimate that small levy would generate more than $8 million over the next three years, largely because Delaware is currently one of the top 20 states when it comes to opioid prescriptions per capita and the top state in the nation for high-dose prescriptions.

The levy created by SB 34 establishes a two-tier fee paid only by those opioid manufacturers whose products are of the highest strength and/or most widely dispensed in the state, based on data already collected by Delaware’s Prescription Monitoring Program.

Every three months, those manufacturers would be billed one penny per every morphine milligram equivalent (MME) of their brand-name opioid dispensed in the state and one-quarter of a cent for every MME of their generic opioid sold here. For the most common opiate pain medications, this means a fee of 2-5 cents per pill.

Money collected from that fee could subsidize enrollment in residential treatment programs for the uninsured and underinsured, expand treatment options statewide and conduct research on effective opioid treatments. The dedicated fund for these programs would be administered by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services with input from the Behavioral Health Consortium, Addiction Action Committee and the Overdose System of Care.

The legislation was co-sponsored by 17 Democrats and three Republicans. The bill also is backed by the Delaware Department of Justice and atTAcK Addiction, Delaware’s leading voice for families impacted by drug abuse.

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