In recent years, as I’ve traveled to every corner of Oregon to host an annual town hall meeting in each county, I have heard heart-wrenching stories from Oregonians who have lost loved ones after a prescription for an injury or treatment turned into an addiction. Others are watching as family members, neighbors, and friends struggle to find resources to help them recover.
Now, we know that drug companies caused and fueled this epidemic by intentionally downplaying the addictiveness of opioid drugs, and pushing to keep patients on powerful painkillers. Instead of warning doctors about addiction risks, pharmaceutical companies continued to flood the streets with far more opioids than could ever be responsibly consumed in order to maximize their profits. That’s unacceptable, and we need to hold these corporations responsible for their reckless behavior.
That’s why I’m introducing legislation that would impose fees on drug companies based on how many opioids they sold since 1999 — the year the opioid crisis slowly began to build — to fund substance abuse prevention and treatment. The Opioid Treatment Surge Act will use these fees, totaling $2 billion per year, to more than double funding to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program — including another $23 million per year for Oregon.
It’s time for drug companies to take responsibility for creating this crisis by paying to treat the addictions they caused. Approximately 1.7 million Americans struggle with substance abuse disorders stemming from prescription drugs, and more than 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day — while pharmaceutical corporations have made billions. As communities struggle to provide critical resources to prevent and treat substance abuse, it’s only right that the companies who made massive profits from selling opioids help fund the solution.
I also understand that, for many people, prescription opioids are essential for maintaining a quality of life. I believe we can and must both treat this addiction epidemic as the national medical emergency that it is, and also maintain access to prescription opioids for patients who need them to manage the debilitating effects of cancer, nerve damage, back injuries, and other sources of chronic pain.
America can’t afford to wait another moment before acting swiftly to address the opioid addiction epidemic. Please know that I will continue to force the pharmaceutical industry to put consumers first, and am committed to supporting those in our communities struggling with opioid addiction.
All my best,