Senate legislation on opioids could mistakenly harm patients

As a local pharmacist and long-time Snohomish County resident, I know firsthand that substance abuse and misuse are critical problems facing our region. And minimizing addiction and abuse, especially of prescription medications, is a priority for many throughout the state, including lawmakers and health care professionals. However, it is critical that as we address the opioid epidemic, we are not punishing or stigmatizing patients and those in our community struggling with real, severe pain.

I recently read that the state Senate included legislation as part of its budget (SB 5988) that would increase taxes for prescription drug wholesalers and invest that money into opioid addiction and treatment programs.

While I support enhanced programs that prevent addiction and abuse, I am concerned by this legislation’s flawed approach.

Imposing punitive measures on wholesale distributors, which warehouse and ship medical products that health care professionals order, including prescription opioids, does not address the root cause of addiction. Nor does it reduce the demand for opioids, legal or illegal. It simply puts a significant strain on pharmacist and the patients we serve, potentially increasing costs or decreasing access to medications and care.

Frankly, this effort misdirects blame and has the potential to harm patients and their families who already deal with exhaustive medical bills.

We should instead be looking at ways to prevent the overprescribing of any medication, educate patients and health care professionals further on the dangers of prescription opioids, and support the law enforcement efforts that seek to curb illegal opioid use.

Lauren Stenson


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