Hillary Clinton Supports Proposal To Tax Opioids

By McCarton Ackerman 05/10/16

The proposal calls for opioid manufacturers or importers to pay a 1 cent tax on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill.

Hillary Clinton Supports Proposal To Tax Opioids
photo viaJoseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

During a visit to West Virginia last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a tax on prescription opioid medication, which would be used to fund substance abuse treatment across the U.S.

In March, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) proposed the 1 cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill "to be paid by the manufacturer or importer" of the drug, as part of an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (CARA). Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Charleston ahead of the state's May 10 Democratic primary, Clinton called Manchin's plan a "great idea."

According to Manchin, who in April introduced legislation to give doctors full disclosure of a patient’s addiction history, the opioid tax would collect up to $2 billion annually. This money would then go to treatment centers for opioid addiction, according to CNN, distributed as part of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. The proposal also includes a rebate for opioids prescribed for cancer-related pain and hospice patients, and an exemption for opioids used as part of medically-assisted treatment, according to a March press release.

“I said, 'You know what, we've got an alcohol tax on alcohol, we have a tobacco tax,'” said Manchin. “So I said, 'Why don't we have a one penny per milligram for every manufactured pharmaceutical that manufactures any opiates, just opiates?'"

West Virginia has the highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in the country, at 33.5 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a 2015 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Last September, Clinton unveiled a $10 billion plan to address the opioid epidemic. The Democratic presidential hopeful proposed providing substance abuse training to healthcare providers and requiring all first responders to carry naloxone, the overdose antidote. The boost in funding would “help states have a different approach to dealing with this epidemic,” she said during a Democratic debate in January.

“We have to move away from treating the use of drugs as a crime and instead, move it to where it belongs, as a health issue,” said Clinton. “And we need to divert more people from the criminal justice system into drug courts, into treatment, and recovery.”

Other CARA amendments proposed by Manchin include requiring medical practitioners to receive opioid safety training, and requiring the FDA to consult with its advisory committee and Congress before approving any new opioid medication.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.