Bernie Sanders Targets Opioid Manufacturers With New Bill

By Beth Leipholtz 04/19/18

Sanders' bill focuses on penalizing Big Pharma companies with fines and jail time for deceptive marketing practices.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is doing his part to fight the opioid crisis. 

The Vermont senator introduced a bill on Tuesday, April 17, that would crack down on drug manufacturers if they are found to be illegally contributing to the opioid crisis. 

The legislation, which is called the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018, would prohibit any marketing that implies opioids are not addictive or that there are no risks associated with the medications, according to Reuters

STAT News reports that the bill would implement both prison time and fines. Prison time would be a 10-year minimum, while the fine would be “equal to an executive’s compensation package.”

The company itself would also be fined an amount of $7.8 billion, which is 10% of the estimated cost of the opioid crisis each year. 

“At a time when local, state and federal government are spending many billions of dollars a year, those people will be held accountable and asked to contribute to help us address the crisis,” Sanders said in an interview, according to Reuters. “It shouldn’t just be the taxpayer that has to pay for the damage that they did.”

Others in government have also broached opioid-related bills but Sanders focuses on pharmaceutical companies themselves in comparison to other bills. 

According to STAT, U.S. Representative Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he “hopes to bring a legislative package to a vote by Memorial Day.”

Because Republicans are in control in the White House and Congress, Reuters states, it is unlikely that the bill will make any headway in the near future. 

Sanders isn’t the only one hoping to hold manufacturers accountable.

Ohio and Kentucky, two states that have been massively affected by the opioid crisis, are suing opioid manufacturers for their role in the crisis. 

“The real legal struggles have taken place at the state level,” Sanders said. “It seems to me that it’s appropriate to take that fight... here to the federal government.”

According to the Washington Times, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently claimed that the Justice Department (DOJ) is making progress on the opioid crisis.

He said the DOJ is taking steps to decrease the number of prescription pills on the market. He also stated that the Justice Department “announced a major takedown of an interstate network that trafficked drugs into the opioid crisis’ ‘ground zero’ in the foothills of Appalachia.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.