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Column: Set of bills would battle opioid addicton

By District 17B Rep. Dave Baker, District 40 Sen. Chris Eaton. District 40B Rep. Debra Hillstrom and District 23 Sen. Julie Rosen Minnesota, like most states around the country, is currently facing an opioid crisis. In 2016, Minnesota had an appr...

By District 17B Rep. Dave Baker, District 40 Sen. Chris Eaton. District 40B Rep. Debra Hillstrom and District 23 Sen. Julie Rosen

Minnesota, like most states around the country, is currently facing an opioid crisis. In 2016, Minnesota had an approximately 20 percent increase in opioid-related deaths as compared to 2015. Hennepin County alone saw a 36 percent increase in fatalities. To fully understand the rising rates of death, overdose and abuse, it’s important to know some simple facts about opioids and opioid manufacturers.

  • In 1991, doctors prescribed 76 million opioids. In 2012 that number exploded to 259 million.
  • Since 1999, over 200,000 people have died in the US from overdoses involving opioid painkillers.
  • 100 million prescribed opioids go unused each year following wisdom teeth removal.
  • Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, misled the medical community and FDA that these extended release opioids were non-addictive. In 2007 they pled guilty in court and paid $650 million in fines. Sales of OxyContin have exceeded $31 billion and there is no sign of slowing down.

These facts are simply staggering to read, especially when considering the cost to our family, friends and loved ones struggling with opioid addiction. Most of us know someone personally whose life has been negatively impacted by opioid abuse. There isn't a small town or big city in Minnesota that hasn't been affected.
That’s why, as a group of bipartisan legislators, we’re working on a set of bills, The Opioid Reform Act, to decrease the abuse of these dangerous drugs. The first bill would require drug manufacturers to pay an increased fee to sell opioids in our state. That fee is currently only $235 per company –- less than some individuals pay to renew their tabs.

Another bill would limit dentists to prescribing just four days at a time. Someone having their wisdom teeth removed shouldn’t be receiving 30 opioid pills. That simply opens the door for overuse, or use by someone other than the prescribed patient.

The next piece of legislation requires doctors to use the Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure Minnesotans seeking more opioids aren’t “doctor shopping.” We understand this issue isn’t a result of negligence by doctors or dentists. They’re trying to do what’s best for their patients, but opioids simply aren’t effective in long-term care where the risk of addiction is raised.

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What’s important to understand is that you can help us. This call to action is real and transcends political parties, economic status or location in our state. Please share your story with elected officials and urge them to support the Opioid Reform Act of 2017.

Together we can make a difference.

 

Dave Baker is a Republican from Willmar, Chris Eaton and Debra Hillstrom are DFLers from Brooklyn Center, and Julie Rosen is a  Republican from Vernon Center.

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