Opioid addiction is a national problem, but taxing the prescription drugs likely won’t help solve it, according to a white paper released this week.
“As states look for solutions to this problem, one of the ideas that they’ve looked at is the idea of a tax, specifically on the prescription opioids,” said white paper author and Matrix Global Advisors CEO Alex Brill. “Some of the epidemic is related to prescription opioids. More of the epidemic lately is related to heroin and fentanyl.”
Taxing the prescriptions won’t change what real people with insurance pay, because they have co-pays, and if you don’t have insurance, then street drugs become a less expensive option to get your fix.
“Others who are misusing prescription opioids are getting them from friends or from relatives,” said Brill. “Maybe they’re even stealing them from a neighbor’s medicine cabinet. For them, the price isn’t going to change, either. The graver concern is that people are pushed into things that are more dangerous, like fentanyl. What we’ve seen in the last few years is that the rise of opioid-related deaths is driven by the rise in the use of fentanyl.”
The best way not to get addicted to a substance is to not use it to begin with, or to limit its usage. That’s where legislation can help.
“Policymakers need to think about making sure that the prescriptions are only written when necessary,” said Brill. “What we’ve seen is prescribers have absolutely changed their behavior. Fewer prescription opioid scrips are being written today than they were five years ago. For those who are suffering from opioid misuse disorder, opioid addiction, we need to get those people into treatment programs.”
Federal funds are available for those programs that have been allocated to the states.