Minnesota Makes Move To Get Drug Companies To Indirectly Pay For Addiction Treatment

By Beth Leipholtz 06/10/19

The new plan is anticipated to help put about $20 million annually toward the prevention of substance use disorders, as well as treatment for them.

money exchanging hands in Minnesota

Minnesota is increasing fees for drug companies in an effort to pay for the effects of the opioid epidemic in the state. 

On May 29, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed into law a bill that will drive up fees for both prescription drug manufacturers and distributors, the Star Tribune reports.  

The new plan is anticipated to help raise about $20 million annually toward the prevention of substance use disorders, as well as treatment for them.

For drug manufacturers and distributors, the new plan isn’t a minor change. It will drive their annual licensing fees from about $200 annually to $305,000 annually. After five years, the Star Tribune reports, those fees will decrease to $5,000 if state funding hits the goal of $250 million. This could be through the increased fees for companies, or via a settlement from existing lawsuits against such organizations. 

“The opioid epidemic is devastating communities across Minnesota—claiming lives and leaving heartbroken families in its wake,” Walz said in a statement. “This law will help more families access the treatment they need and prevent addiction in the first place.”

The Star Tribune reports that an advisory council made up of 19 members will monitor the funding and be responsible for issuing grants for programs that aim to combat the opioid crisis and prevent additional deaths as a result. The funding will also be allocated to various law enforcement areas, programs that work to provide nonnarcotic pain treatment and county services for children who have been affected by the opioid epidemic. 

“This is unusual,” said Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, according to Kaiser Health News. “We keep seeing the states trying to find new ways to finance the costs of the opioid crisis. But this is a new angle, although it follows a pattern of states and municipalities assessing costs for disposing of unwanted or unused medicines.”

However, the new legislation wasn’t supported by everyone. There was some pushback from chronic pain patients, as well as pharmaceutical companies themselves. 

“Unfortunately, what’s being proposed—taxing legitimately prescribed medicines that patients rely on for legitimate medical needs to raise revenue for the state—ignores evidence-based solutions, sets a dangerous precedent and ultimately won’t help patients and families,” Nick McGee, director of public affairs for the industry trade group PhRMA, said earlier this year.

According to the Star Tribune, such opposition in past years kept similar ideas from being enacted. However, increasing awareness around the opioid epidemic and the role of manufacturers and distributors helped to sway the dynamic. 

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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 www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.