Opioid Impact Fee Legislation Sent to Governor

DOVER – The Delaware House passed legislation Thursday to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable in the tireless fight against the opioid crisis, sending the measure to Gov. John Carney’s desk.

The bill passed the House 33-8. Last month the Senate passed it 17-4.

Senate Bill 34, championed by Sen. Stephanie Hansen and Rep. David Bentz, requires drug makers responsible for the state’s opioid crisis to help pay for additional research and addiction treatment options in Delaware. Those initiatives would be funded by an opioid impact fee, a small levy assessed on pharmaceutical manufacturers based on the strength of the opioids they sell in Delaware.

The addiction epidemic impacts residents across our state, tearing apart families and destroying lives. More Delawareans have been killed from drug overdoses than motor vehicle crashes every year since 2009.

“This is about holding drug companies accountable for the role their products played in creating this epidemic. These drug companies have relied on the business of deception, marketing and selling prescription opioids as the addiction epidemic damages states across the country. It’s only fair that this industry helps to pay for some of the harm,” said Rep. Bentz, D-Christiana.

“This battle takes a coordinated, all-hands-on-deck approach, and we need to be doing all we can to give it our best fight. The opioid impact fee raises a dedicated stream of funds for addiction prevention, treatment, and life-saving drugs that can save a person who overdoses. This funding is critical, and I am proud that my colleagues voted to swiftly pass this legislation.”

State officials estimate that small levy would generate more than $8 million over the next three years, largely because Delaware is currently one of the top 20 states when it comes to opioid prescriptions per capita and the top state in the nation for high-dose prescriptions.

“Make no mistake about it, this legislation will save lives,” said prime sponsor Sen. Hansen, D-Middletown. “Passage of this bill also sends a clear message that the Delaware General Assembly is focused on putting the needs of families and neighbors ahead of the record profits drug makers are reaping from the very public health crisis they helped to create. This legislation will bring needed funding for programs and treatment for those who are suffering from addiction, their families, providers, and those doing the hard work of staying in recovery and helping others.”

The levy created by SB 34 establishes a two-tier fee paid only by those opioid manufacturers whose products are of the highest strength and/or most widely dispensed in our state, based on data already collected by Delaware’s Prescription Monitoring Program.

Every three months, those manufacturers would be billed one penny per every morphine milligram equivalent (MME) of their brand-name opioid dispensed in the state and one-quarter of a cent for every MME of their generic opioid sold here. For the most common opiate pain medications, this means a fee of 2-5 cents per pill.

Money collected from that fee could subsidize enrollment in residential treatment programs for the uninsured and underinsured, expand treatment options statewide and conduct research on effective opioid treatments. The dedicated fund for these programs would be administered by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services with input from the Behavioral Health Consortium, Addiction Action Committee and the Overdose System of Care.

The legislation was co-sponsored by a full third of the General Assembly – 17 Democrats and three Republicans. The bill also is backed by the Delaware Department of Justice and atTAcK Addiction, Delaware’s leading voice for families impacted by drug abuse.