AUGUSTA—A bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would hold drug companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The bill – LD 793, “An Act To Improve Accountability of Opioid Manufacturers” – does three things: it would prohibit drug companies from making false advertising claims around opioids; bans the distribution of opioids in an amount that is not medically reasonable; and requires drug companies to report to the State when someone orders mass quantity of opioids not considered “medically reasonable.”
“The opioid epidemic has devastated families and communities across the country while pharmaceutical companies have raked in obscene profits. Now, we are now learning about the great length many of these companies went to mislead the public and push their products onto everyday people in search of pain relief,” said President Jackson. “This bill is about banning the very practices that allowed the opioid crisis to spin out of a control and holding pharmaceutical companies accountable. Mainers in pain shouldn’t be sources of revenue for the richest companies in the world.”
The first component of the bill targets false advertising around the “addictiveness” of opioids. News broke earlier this year about the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma embarking on a misinformation campaign about the dangers of OxyContin. Since coming onto the market in 1997, more than 200,000 people have overdosed on the drug. The Sackler family is worth an estimated $14 billion.
In March, Purdue Pharma was forced to settle with the state of Oklahoma for $270 million to account for their role in the opioid crisis. Earlier this month, the drug manufacturer Indivior was charged with falsely marketing it’s opioids as less addictive than other medications.
LD 793 also would ban the mass distribution of opioids in an amount that’s not “medically reasonable.” Distribution companies already are required by federal law to report suspicious orders of prescription medication. However, data from the Drug Enforcement Agency coupled with several state lawsuits indicates distribution companies were cooperating with drug manufacturers to deceive federal regulation to continue delivering out-of-proportion opioids to communities all across the country. For example, one community of about 2,000 people in West Virginia received an estimated 16.6 million opioid pills in a span of eight years from the medical distribution companies, McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen.
Opioids have been involved in more than 47,000 deaths in 2017 alone. Data from the CDC indicates that Maine has been among the hardest states hit in the country.
LD 793 faces additional work sessions in committee.