Opioid companies created the deadliest drug epidemic in our history. Now, they should foot the bill.

For a long time, we’ve known that drug companies put profits ahead of patients. Newly released data shows that “Big Pharma” flooded the American market with over 76 billion opioid pills while our country was experiencing the deadliest drug epidemic in the history of our nation.

They put our parents, our children, our friends and our neighbors in harm’s way all in the name of greed. The CEOs, shareholders and drug company executives got richer, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. I won’t mince words, one thing has become abundantly clear: These megacorporations will put profits ahead of all else, including human lives.

There can be no question that opioid manufacturers knowingly created this nightmare. It’s time for them to be held accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted on this state and this country. As we look for solutions to get us out of this crisis, these companies, not the Maine taxpayers, should foot the bill.

This year, I sponsored legislation that would hold both opioid manufacturers responsible for their role in this crisis. LD 793, “An Act To Improve Accountability of Opioid Manufacturers” requires these companies to fund critical prevention, treatment and recovery programs using two tools:

First, we raise the license fee for opioid manufacturers from $200 to $55,000. To put it in perspective, the current licensing fee for an opioid manufacturer is the same as a hotel minibar license. With the outrageous profits that opioid companies earn on the backs of American people and the deadliness of their product, they can certainly afford to pay more to do business in this state.

Second, we establish a new product registration fee of $250,000 that applies to the largest opioid manufacturers or manufacturers selling two million or more doses in Maine. When we have companies shipping obscene volumes of opioids into small towns and rural communities across the nation, requiring them to register with the state only makes sense.

Relying on politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., to monitor and take legal action against opioid manufacturers has proven ineffective and foolish. Once again, in the absence of federal leadership, Maine will step up.

My proposal requires the collection of crucial manufacturing and distribution information at the state level. By making critical data available to the Department of Health and Human Services, the state can ensure strong oversight of the opioid industry and take aggressive action whenever necessary. This includes lawsuits to hold manufacturers and distributors accountable much like the case recently filed by Maine’s Attorney General.

The opioid epidemic represents the ugliest display of greed. The actions of these drug companies have defined a generation and will have consequences for years to come. Other states have recognized this and are exploring how to hold opioid companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis and to fund critical prevention, treatment and recovery options. Minnesota has already passed similar legislation.

Now I am not a corporate CEO, but where I come from, you’re held accountable for your actions. Big Pharma made this mess, plain and simple. It’s time for them to step up to the plate and fix it.

And if they won’t, we will make them.


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