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Opioid Taxes Not Faring Well This Session

Minnesota state Rep. Dave Baker (R) sponsored a bill (HB 1440) this session that would have imposed a “penny a pill” fee on every opioid painkiller pharmaceutical companies sold in the state to provide funding for opioid abuse prevention and treatment.


The measure was personal for Baker, having lost a child to an opioid overdose.


“I’m a pissed off dad,” he said. “My son isn’t here anymore. The state has spent billions and [the drug companies] have profited billions.”


But under heavy lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry, the fee was stripped from Baker’s bill, and the proposal subsequently stalled in the Senate.


Similar efforts have met with the same fate in several other states, including California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont. Lawmakers in those states said they would try again next year.


Only New York has managed to pass an opioid tax bill (SB 7507) this session. The bill imposes a fee on opioid manufacturers and distributors, based on the amount of the drug they sell in the state, and prohibits them from passing along that fee to consumers or insurers. But the measure has been held up by a lawsuit brought by the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a national trade group that represents drug distributors.


Back in Minnesota, Baker is planning a shift of focus in 2019, to pharmaceutical licensing. He said bars and liquor stores pay the state thousands of dollars in licensing fees each year, while pharmaceutical companies pay only a few hundred dollars per year in such fees. (GOVERNING, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)