Taxing Prescription Opioids Can Raise Tens of Millions for Drug Treatment

Bryn Wesch, Chief Financial Officer at Novus Medical Detox Center, discusses the possibility of taxes on prescription drugs.

Opioid overprescribing and misuse has placed a growing financial burden on many states, so taxing the prescription medication at the root of the problem is a clever and fair solution.

From 1999 to 2015, the rate of U.S. drug overdose deaths soared 167%,(1) with opioids alone responsible for over 33,000 of the 52,404 drug-related deaths in 2015.(2) To combat the growing epidemic, California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty has sponsored Assembly Bill (AB) 1512, which proposes a tax on prescription opioids to fund drug rehabilitation and prevention services.(3) Novus Medical Detox Center, a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility, believes the move has the potential to reverse the opioid crisis and encourages other states to pursue similar legislation.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the age-adjusted U.S. drug overdose death rate climbed from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 16.3 in 2015—more than 2.5 times higher.(1) Opioid-related overdose deaths jumped 15.5%, from 28,647 to 33,091, in a single year.(2) In California, 32 people per day are hospitalized from non-fatal overdoses and other opioid-related conditions; and in 2014, more than 2,000 Californians fatally overdosed on prescription opioids.(4)

These statistics led McCarty to propose a 1-cent per milligram surcharge on prescription opioids to be assessed on wholesalers, with the funds earmarked for drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs.(4) McCarty’s office projects the tax will raise “tens of millions of dollars” and that any impact on consumers would only be “a few dollars per…

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