Minnesota, like most states around the country, faces an opioid crisis. In 2016, Minnesota had an approximately 20 percent increase in opioid-related deaths as compared to 2015. Hennepin County 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 wrote 76 million opioid prescriptions. In 2012 that number exploded to 259 million.
• Since 1999, more than 200,000 people have died in the U.S. 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 Food and Drug Administration that these extended-release opioids were nonaddictive. In 2007 the firm pleaded guilty in court and paid $650 million in fines. Sales of OxyContin have exceeded $31 billion and there is no sign of their slowing down.
These facts are staggering to read, especially when considering the cost to our families, friends and loved ones struggling with opioid addiction. Most of us know someone 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 pay to renew their license tabs.
Another bill would limit dentists to prescribing just four days’ worth of painkillers at a time. Patients 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 patient.
The next piece of legislation requires doctors to use the Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure that 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.
What’s important to understand is that you can help us. This call to action is real and transcends political parties, economic status and 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 R-Willmar, and Debra Hillstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, are members of the Minnesota House. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, are Minnesota state senators.