Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: We Must Hold Big Pharma Accountable for Opioid Epidemic

June 15, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC—After the House passed 38 opioid-related bills this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called on Congress to build on this progress and pass the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 (H.R. 5782). The legislation, introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the House and Senator Bernie Sanders in the Senate, would prohibit and penalize drug companies for false marketing and distribution of opioids, and put in place criminal liability for top company executives. The congresswoman called for ending the federal prohibition of marijuana, and increasing research into pain-management alternatives to opioids, including marijuana. There are studies that found a correlation in states that have legalized medical marijuana use with a drop in addiction rates and opioid abuse deaths, some by over 20%.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said: “The opioid epidemic has gone unaddressed for too long, as it continues to ravage and take lives all across the country. While we passed bipartisan legislation to begin to address the problem of opioid addiction, these measures aren’t nearly enough. We need to get to the root of this problem by holding big pharmaceutical companies accountable for fueling and profiting from this crisis. Big Pharma has raked in billions of dollars in profits off of opioids, using lies and deceptive marketing tactics to hide the highly addictive nature of these drugs, oversaturating parts of our country already struggling from high levels of addiction, and more. We need to urgently pass the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act to empower prosecutors to hold these companies and individuals accountable once and for all.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard supported and helped pass opioid-related legislation to:

  • Protect our Vulnerable Populations by educating seniors on opioid alternatives, requiring safe care plans for infants born dependent on drugs, identifying best practices for older caregivers raising children, expanding veterans’ access to effective and tailored treatment, and more.
  • Improve Information-Sharing and Available Data by creating a public electronic database of data on the opioid crisis and effect of federal efforts, encouraging usage of electronic record technology by behavioral health providers, measuring and mitigating effects of synthetic drugs, ensuring access to a consenting patient’s prior history of addiction, facilitating better clinical data on non-opioid alternatives, improving information-sharing between states about prescription drugs, providing information and resources to early childhood professionals, and more.
  • Increase Treatment Options by authorizing funding for drugs courts, veteran treatment courts, and residential substance abuse treatment programs, increasing the number of female VA peer-to-peer counselors, developing best practices for recovery residences, incentivizing employment as a substance use disorder treatment professional in high-need areas, improving access to treatment for patients who have overdosed after ER discharges, testing alternative pain management protocols, and more.

Background: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has continued to call for nationwide action to combat the opioid epidemic, including condemning Big Pharma’s role in proliferating the opioid epidemic, pushing for consideration of medical marijuana as a pain management alternative to opioids, and more. The congresswoman has also introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1227) to federally decriminalize marijuana. She has cosponsored legislation such as the STOP OD Act (H.R.664), the Road to Recovery Act (H.R. 2938), the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (H.R. 1245), and the Community Action Opioid Response Act (H.R. 5124). The congresswoman also recently joined lawmakers and the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) in an opioid-related forum to discuss harnessing the power, skills, and experience of Hawai‘i and national community leaders to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 (H.R. 5782) to hold drug companies and executives accountable for profiting from the opioid epidemic by:

  • Prohibiting and penalizing illegal marketing and distribution of opioids;
  • Creating criminal liability for top company executives;
  • Requiring drug makers to reimburse an HHS-led “Opioid Reimbursement Fund” for the negative economic impact of their products;
  • Reducing market exclusivity of drug companies who illegally advertise, market or distribute opioids; and
  • Prohibiting manufacturers who violate this act from receiving certain tax credits while establishing contemporaneous tax penalties.

The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 is endorsed by several health and safety organizations, including Public Citizen, CREDO, American Medical Student Association (AMSA), National Collaborative for Health Equity, and Prescription Justice.

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