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Minnesota lawmakers: A bipartisan proposal to fight opioid abuse

ST. PAUL—Minnesota, like most states, is facing an opioid crisis. In 2016, Minnesota had a 20 percent increase over 2015 in opioid-related deaths. Hennepin County alone saw a 36 percent increase.

To fully understand the rising rates of death, overdose and abuse, it's important to know some facts about opioids and opioid manufacturers.

• In 1991, doctors prescribed 76 million opioids. In 2012, that number exploded to 259 million.

• Since 1999, more than 200,000 Americans have died from overdoses involving opioid painkillers.

• One hundred million prescribed opioids go unused each year following wisdom teeth removal.

• Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, misled the medical community and federal government that these extended release opioids were non-addictive. In 2007, they pled guilty in court and paid $650 million in fines.

Sales of OxyContin have exceeded $31 billion, and there is no sign of slowing down.

These facts are simply staggering to read, especially when considering the cost to our families, friends and loved ones struggling with opioid addiction. Most of us know someone whose life has been hurt by opioid abuse. There isn't a small town or big city in Minnesota that hasn't been affected.

That's why we're working on a set of bills, The Opioid Reform Act, to decrease the abuse of these dangerous drugs. The first bill would require drug manufacturers to pay an increased fee to sell opioids in our state. Today that fee is only $235 per company—less than some individuals pay to renew their license tabs.

Another bill would limit dentists to prescribing just four days at a time. Someone having their wisdom teeth removed shouldn't be getting 30 opioid pills. That simply opens the door for overuse, or use by someone other than the prescribed patient.

The next proposal requires doctors to use the Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure Minnesotans seeking more opioids aren't "doctor shopping." We understand this issue isn't a result of negligence by doctors or dentists. They're trying to do what's best for their patients, but opioids simply aren't effective in long-term care where the risk of addiction is raised.

What's important to understand is that Herald readers can help us. This call to action is real and transcends political parties, economic status, or location in our state. We ask readers to share their stories with elected officials and to urge them to support the Opioid Reform Act of 2017.

Together we can make a difference.

In the Minnesota House, Baker, a Republican, represents Willmar, and Hillstrom, a DFLer, represents Brooklyn Center.

In the Minnesota Senate, Eaton, a DFLer, represents Brooklyn Center, and Rosen, a Republican, represents Vernon Center.

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