A conference committee in the Minnesota Legislature, and/or Gov. Tim Walz, should kill a pair of companion bills on opioid use (SF 751/HF 400) — before the legislation kills victims of chronic pain.

This feels-like-we’re-doing-something-good effort to combat a manufactured crisis will hurt more than it helps. The Legislature is taking a “ready, fire, aim” approach guaranteed to create suffering for Minnesotans who need prescriptions to manage their real pain to sustain a real life.

We are talking about the lives of cancer patients, burn and trauma victims, amputees, and other major surgery patients.

It’s arrogant and ignorant for politicians to say no one needs these pills, they shouldn’t be made, or that one pill is the start of heroin addiction. People turn to street drugs for problems that government ignores, like pain and suffering. Prohibition and taxation do not stop illicit drug use anymore than they stop pain and suffering. Actually, they create it.

Mark Twain popularized the saying that there are “three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Quoted numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 64,000 Americans die annually from drug overdoses. That is all drugs, legal and illegal. Of that, roughly half are by opioids, legal and illegal. Of that 32,000 — close to 90 percent are overdoses of the opioids heroin and fentanyl, leaving around 5,000 deaths per year from solely misusing prescription pills.

By comparison, more than 6,000 people a year commit suicide due to unmanageable pain; 6,000 die riding bicycles; 40,000 in cars; 88,000 from alcohol; and 480,000 from tobacco.

The last report in Minnesota said that 422 state residents died from opioid overdose in a year, legal and illegal. The authorities said that 91 percent of those were fentanyl or heroin. The 38 other deaths were attributed to misused authentic prescriptions.

Is the solution to increase costs on the 99.998 percent who don’t misuse their drugs and who are alive because of these pills?

State Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, authored SF 1098 to force pharmaceutical companies to provide transparency on how they arrive at such high drug prices. Then she authored SF 751 to raise the costs of drugs with $20 million in new annual fees for manufacturers and wholesalers of opioids. This money is slated to create a new government advisory board, with a portion going toward law enforcement. To see how that will work, consider marijuana (which by the way is a gateway off opioids).

No pain patients have been involved in any advisory council or task force making these recommendations. Under the legislation, you would need a state ID to get your prescription (but not for the more dangerous act of voting). Your doctors would be allowed half the number of days to treat pain, or could lose a license and have assets seized, including your private medical records. Several doctors have announced they will no longer treat chronic pain because of the risk of government. In a related story, several heroin dealers have just announced that they will expand their products and services to fill that void.

Let’s use our heads and not just our hearts for once. Urge your legislator and Gov. Walz to stop this illogical, expensive, regressive, misdirected overreaction that will hurt real Minnesotans with real medical pain.

 

Chris Holbrook is chair of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.