The right and wrong way to address opioid abuse

Mar 27, 2019
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

Opioid use disorder is one of the most pressing issues facing Washington State and the entire country.   Families are destroyed, lives are lost, services are strained, crime is increased – it is a plague on society and must be addressed now.

Currently before the Washington State Legislature are a number of bills seeking to help solve this growing problem.  Some bills hit their mark and others, while well intended, fall short or actually exacerbate the problem.

Senate Bill 5380, prime sponsored by the Health Care Committee Chairwoman, Senator Annette Cleveland (D-49) at the request of Governor Jay Inslee (D) takes the right approach.  This comprehensive bill will require controlled substances to only be filled by electronic prescriptions.  This will cut down on errors and abuse of the system while getting patients their needed medications in an expeditated fashion.  The bill also modifies the protocols for using medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), permits pharmacists to partially fill certain prescriptions upon patient request, requires prescribers to discuss the risks of opioids with certain patients and provide the patient with the option to refuse an opioid prescription, and establishes new requirements for how electronic health records integrate with the prescription monitoring program (PMP) and how PMP data can be used.  Washington Retail and its pharmacy members are in strong support of this bill that is waiting for a vote out of the House Committee on Health Care.

On the other hand, both Senate Bill 5940, prime sponsored by Senator Karen Keiser (D-33) and Senate Bill 5988, prime sponsored by Senator Reuven Carlyle (D-36), miss the mark.  While the bills are intended to help address the opioid use disorder epidemic, they actually have significant unintended consequences by increasing the costs of prescription drugs.

SB 5940 would place a 37 percent Business and Occupation gross receipts tax on opioid prescriptions and SB 5988 increases the B and O rate on drug warehousing by 250 percent!  Both bills will significantly increase the costs of medications in the State of Washington.  Low-income individuals, seniors and folks on a fixed income will be hit the hardest.  The medications many of them depend on will cost more and erode their already meager budgets.  These bills are the wrong approach and Washington Retail opposes them.  Opioid use disorder is a societal problem, not a prescription drug problem. It must be made a priority and funded through the state Operating Budget.

Join WR in supporting legislation that actually helps solve the opioid use disorder crisis – please support Senate Bill 5380.