Novus Medical Detox Center: Taxing Prescription Opioids Can Raise Tens of Millions for Drug Treatment

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With opioid overdoses killing 91 Americans per day, one California legislator has proposed a tax on prescription painkillers to fund drug treatment and prevention. Novus Medical Detox Center examines the proposal and its potential benefits.

Bryn Wesch, Chief Financial Officer at Novus Medical Detox Center, discusses the possibility of taxes on prescription drugs.

Opioid overprescribing and misuse has placed a growing financial burden on many states, so taxing the prescription medication at the root of the problem is a clever and fair solution.

From 1999 to 2015, the rate of U.S. drug overdose deaths soared 167%,(1) with opioids alone responsible for over 33,000 of the 52,404 drug-related deaths in 2015.(2) To combat the growing epidemic, California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty has sponsored Assembly Bill (AB) 1512, which proposes a tax on prescription opioids to fund drug rehabilitation and prevention services.(3) Novus Medical Detox Center, a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility, believes the move has the potential to reverse the opioid crisis and encourages other states to pursue similar legislation.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the age-adjusted U.S. drug overdose death rate climbed from 6.1 per 100,000 in 1999 to 16.3 in 2015—more than 2.5 times higher.(1) Opioid-related overdose deaths jumped 15.5%, from 28,647 to 33,091, in a single year.(2) In California, 32 people per day are hospitalized from non-fatal overdoses and other opioid-related conditions; and in 2014, more than 2,000 Californians fatally overdosed on prescription opioids.(4)

These statistics led McCarty to propose a 1-cent per milligram surcharge on prescription opioids to be assessed on wholesalers, with the funds earmarked for drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programs.(4) McCarty’s office projects the tax will raise “tens of millions of dollars” and that any impact on consumers would only be “a few dollars per month.”(3) Similar legislation has also been proposed in the U.S. Senate and in the state legislatures of Connecticut, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.(3, 4)

“Opioid overprescribing and misuse has placed a growing financial burden on many states, so taxing the prescription medication at the root of the problem is a clever and fair solution,” said Bryn Wesch, CFO of Novus Medical Detox Center. “Increasing funding for prevention and education can help reduce the number of new and long-term opioid users, while expanding access to drug detox and rehab can help those struggling with opioid use disorders overcome their dependence.”

Wesch believes proactive efforts and investments at the state level are essential to combat the U.S. opioid crisis, and she calls for more lawmakers to follow McCarty’s lead in sponsoring legislation designed to prevent and end opioid misuse and abuse. Researchers from Columbia University predicted that U.S. drug overdose deaths would peak in 2017 before declining to non-epidemic levels of about 6,000 per year by 2035; however, they emphasize that the epidemic “won’t end by itself” and will require continuing public health interventions.(5)

“Law enforcement and regulatory officials have finally begun taking a more compassionate approach to individuals with substance use disorders, creating an environment that is more conducive to getting them into detox, rehab and recovery,” explained Wesch. “The challenge has been securing funding to support drug treatment and detox programs for all those who need them, so McCarty’s tax proposal is a smart approach. And if patients are concerned about the rising cost of their opioid prescriptions, hopefully it’ll encourage them to explore the alternatives—there are plenty of safer options available—and to get the help they need to taper down from or off of their current medication.”

For more information on Novus Medical Detox Center and its medically supervised drug treatment programs, visit http://www.novusdetox.com.

About Novus Medical Detox Center:
Novus Medical Detox Center has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation as an inpatient medical detox facility. Licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, Novus provides safe, effective alcohol and drug treatment programs that are based on proven medical protocols and designed to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal. The facility is located on 3.25 acres in New Port Richey, Florida, in a tranquil, spa-like setting bordering protected conservation land. Intent on proving that detox doesn’t have to be painful or degrading, Novus set out to transform the industry by bringing humanity into medical detox with individually customized treatment programs and 24/7 access to nursing care and withdrawal specialists. Today, Novus is renowned as a champion of industry standardization and a staunch advocate of patients fighting to overcome substance use disorders. Frequently recognized for its contributions to the industry and local community, Novus has become a regular source to media publications such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and has ranked in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Fast 50, the Florida Business Journal’s Top 500 and the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. For more information on Novus’ medically supervised detox programs, visit http://novusdetox.com.

1.    Hedegaard, Holly; Margaret Warner; and Arialdi M. Miniño. “Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2015”; NCHS Data Brief; February 2017. cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db273.pdf

2.    Rudd, Rose A.; Puja Seth; et al. “Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015”; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; December 30, 2016. cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm655051e1.htm

3.    Bollag, Sophia. “California Lawmaker Proposes Tax on OxyContin, Other Opioids”; U.S. News & World Report; March 1, 2017. usnews.com/news/best-states/california/articles/2017-03-01/california-lawmaker-proposes-tax-on-oxycontin-other-opioids

4.    McCarty, Kevin. “Assemblymember Kevin McCarty Announces Legislation to Tackle California’s Opioid Addiction Epidemic”; March 1, 2017. a07.asmdc.org/press-releases/assemblymember-kevin-mccarty-announces-legislation-tackle-california’s-opioid

5.    Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health. “The Downside of Taking Pills to Treat Chronic Pain”; news story published January 6, 2015. mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/drug-overdose-epidemic-recede-soon

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