Capitol Alert

Lawmaker says painkillers should cost more to pay for treatment of drug addicts

OxyContin pills at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt.
OxyContin pills at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. The Associated Press

A surge of opioid and heroin overdoses in communities across the country, including Sacramento, has prompted one California lawmaker to suggest a fee on prescription painkillers to fund treatment services.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, on Wednesday announced Assembly 1512, which would add a one-cent-per-milligram surcharge on opioids sold by prescription wholesalers to pharmacies to fund county addiction prevention and rehabilitation programs. Because it is considered a tax, the plan would need the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature.

“California’s opioid epidemic has cost state taxpayers millions and the lives of too many of our sons and daughters,” McCarty said in a statement. “We must do more to help these individuals find hope and sobriety. This plan will provide counties with critical resources needed to curb the deadly cycle of opioid and heroin addiction in California.”

Leaders nationally are facing a deadly epidemic of opioid abuse, with addiction to prescription drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin eventually leading many users to heroin. In 2015, about 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase of nearly 16 percent from the prior year.

California hospitals treated more than 11,500 patients suffering from an opioid or heroin overdose in 2013, according to state figures. The Sacramento region saw a rash of overdoses and deaths last year related to street sales of the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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