On Tuesday, April 17, United States Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that targets opioid manufacturers by leveling fines due to deceptive marketing practices and impose more harsh penalties on the drug makers that are found responsible for the opioid crisis.
The legislation is called the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018. Included among its terms are a ban on opioid marketing that does not include a warning concerning the associated risks of addiction, with companies that violate this provision being fined 25 % of the profits earned from opioid sales.
The legislation would also establish criminal liability for pharmaceutical company executives who have contributed to the addiction epidemic. If a big pharma executive is found to have been partially responsible for the opioid crisis, they could face at least 10 years in prison. Drug makers that are found responsible for the opioid crisis would be charged with a fine of $7.8 billion.
So far, no co-sponsors have stepped forward to support the bill. In 2016, Sanders, an independent, ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. Currently, Republicans control both the White House and Congress, calling into question how quickly the bill might advance into law.
The bill comes after many of the states and cities that have been hit hardest by the opioid crisis have already filed lawsuits seeking judgment against drug manufacturers, and in the past, other lawsuits have recovered some money from big pharma companies. In 2007, Purdue Pharma paid more than $600 million in fines after pleading guilty to misleading the public about the addictive nature of opioid painkillers.
In 2016, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 63,600 Americans died as a result of drug overdoses. An estimate of the cost of the opioid crisis to the country issued by the CDC is in excess of $78 billion annually.