New legislation aims to hold opioid manufacturers accountable

By:  Deedee Sun
Source: KIRO 7

New legislation in Congress aims to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for keeping track of and reporting where their drugs end up. 

It's passed the U.S. Senate, and if it passes the House, fines for manufacturers who don’t properly keep tabs on their painkillers will face fines ten times what they are now.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the act and it passed earlier this week. 

On Wednesday, Cantwell met up with law enforcement from three counties and Seattle and the Washington attorney general all met up in King County to talk about how this act is going to help stop the problem at its source. 

“Law enforcement has been pleading for help,” said Ty Trenary, the Snohomish County Sheriff. 

“The problem is large, the problem is difficult,” said Paul Pastor, the Pierce County Sheriff. 

Now, the Opioid Crisis Response Act aims to deliver. 

It addresses the problem. starting with the painkiller manufacturers. 

Cantwell said laws are already in place that require those producers to track where -- and to whom -- those opioids are going. 

“That is what the law said. But unfortunately, manufacturers didn't do that job,” Cantwell said. 

She referred to a case cited in the town of Everett's lawsuit against Perdue Pharma, which was filed last year. 

“A physician in Everett, Washington wrote more than 10,000 prescriptions for opioids. That’s 26 times higher than the average prescriber in Everett,” Cantwell said. “But the drug manufacturer didn't report this suspicious activity, and the Drug Enforcement Administration didn't have the information,” she said. 

Cantwell said the fines right now are small enough that manufacturers don't care. 

But the new legislation would raise the penalty from $10,000 to $100,000 per civil infraction. 

If the new act were in place, Cantwell said Everett case would've cost the manufactures $920 million. 

“I think $920 million in fines is something any drug manufacture will take seriously,” she said. 

The act would also provide federal money to help train local law enforcement. 

It expands treatment coverage by giving doctors access to more patients, and the act delivers federal money to drug courts. 

“This is the way government is supposed to work. Federal government, local government and state government working together to solve problems,” Pastor said. 

Cantwell’s office said it hopes the bill will pass the house in October without too many changes.