Recently, U.S. Pain has seen a number of bills that propose placing a tax on opioids in order to fund efforts to combat opioid abuse. To date, bills have been introduced in numerous states (MN, IA, MA, CA, KY, MT, PA, and NY) and in Congress. But the bills would primarily place a financial burden on legitimate patients. At the very least, chronic pain advocates argue the funds should also be used to address the pain epidemic, not just substance use disorder.

“While we do not have an official position opposing opioid taxation, we are concerned that these bills, as currently drafted, would be very unfair to legitimate pain patients,” says Cindy Steinberg, national director of Policy & Advocacy. “It appears that lawmakers simply have not considered the burden these would place predominantly on people living with debilitating pain, who are using these medications legally as prescribed.”

Steinberg says there are two chief concerns with these bills. First, the taxes imposed on opioid pain medications are likely to be passed on to legitimate pain patients. Studies show that most opioid prescriptions are for legitimate pain.

“While at least one of the bills includes language saying increased costs should not be passed on to patients, there is no way to ensure this,” says Steinberg. “Two of the bills include language protecting ‘eligible patients’ from economic burden; however, ‘eligible patients’ are defined as hospice or cancer patients, with no mention of those with chronic, non-cancer pain.”

If you are concerned about these bills and live in one of the states mentioned above, U.S. Pain encourages you to reach out to lawmakers.

The second concern is that, in all but one case, none of the funds are earmarked to benefit patients living with chronic pain, only for programs benefitting those with substance abuse disorder.

“If any of these bills in congress or any state legislatures move closer to passage, U.S. Pain believes they should be balanced with the inclusion of language protecting all chronic pain patients as well as splitting funds evenly between programs that benefit substance use disodre patients and chronic pain patients,” says Steinberg.

If you are concerned about these bills and live in one of the states mentioned above, U.S. Pain encourages you to speak to lawmakers in your state who have introduced these bills as well as the federal bill sponsors who have done the same. Explain how these measures would affect you and your loved ones.As of the date of this newsletter, four state legislatures (CA, MA, NY and NY) and Congress are still in session with active bills on opioid taxation.

If you have questions about opioid taxation bills, email csteinberg@rcn.com. For more details on U.S. Pain’s position on access to pain management, click here.