Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Bernie Sanders Introduce Bill to Hold Big Pharma Accountable for Opioid Epidemic

Press Release

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), joined by Reps. Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), have introduced legislation to hold drug companies accountable for profiting from America's opioid epidemic. The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 would prohibit and penalize drug companies for false marketing and distribution of opioids, and create criminal liability for top company executives. This bicameral legislation would also require drug companies to reimburse the cost for the negative economic impact of their products -- an amount that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates at more than $78 billion each year.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard said: "For too long, companies like Purdue Pharma have lied, cheated, and swindled the American people, leaving death, addiction, and despair in their wake -- all because of their greed and desire to improve their bottom line. Through deceptive marketing and over-distribution of these dangerously addictive drugs, they've oversaturated parts of our country already struggling from high levels of addiction, while knowing, but not disclosing, their highly addictive nature and risks. Because of their tactics, this opioid epidemic now takes 115 American lives every single day.

"The time for holding these drug companies and leaders accountable is long overdue. These companies rake in billions of dollars in profit every year on the backs of the American people, and not one of them has been prosecuted or held accountable.

"I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting bicameral legislation, the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act, that would prohibit illegal marketing and distribution of opioids, and empower prosecutors to punish those who break the law. We cannot allow perpetrators of this epidemic to continue ruining lives in this country. We must hold those responsible accountable for the damage, heartache, and suffering they've caused."

Senator Bernie Sanders said, "At a time when local, state and federal governments are spending many billions of dollars a year dealing with the impact of the opioid epidemic, we must hold the pharmaceutical companies and executives that created the crisis accountable."

"Big Pharma has pushed dangerous and addictive drugs in its reckless pursuit of profit. Deceitful, unprincipled marketing practices compounded by gross negligence have resulted in a vast oversupply of opioids," said Rep. Ro Khanna. "Too many victims of this scourge have lost their lives, and too many patients are paying for corporate greed in an industry led by executives who suffer without consequences."

"For far too long, drug companies have taken advantage of the American people. They've used irresponsible and shady marketing practices to swindle millions from consumers, exacerbating the opioid crisis," said Rep. Jayapal. "The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act will put an end to the drug companies' deceitful marketing practices. This isn't a partisan issue, and we need members on both sides of the aisle to hold drug companies accountable to combat the opioid crisis."

Background: The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 holds drug companies and executives accountable for profiting from the opioid epidemic by:

Prohibiting and penalizing illegal marketing and distribution of opioids;

Creating criminal liability for top company executives;

Requiring drug makers to reimburse an HHS-led "Opioid Reimbursement Fund" for the negative economic impact of their products;

Reducing market exclusivity of drug companies who illegally advertise, market or distribute opioids; and

Prohibiting manufacturers who violate this act from receiving certain tax credits while establishing contemporaneous tax penalties.

The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2018 is endorsed by several health and safety organizations, including Public Citizen, CREDO, American Medical Student Association (AMSA), National Collaborative for Health Equity, and Prescription Justice.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has continued to call for nationwide action to combat the opioid epidemic, including condemning Big Pharma's role in proliferating the opioid epidemic, pushing for consideration of medical marijuana as a pain management alternative to opioids, and more. The congresswoman has cosponsored legislation like the STOP OD Act (H.R.664), the Road to Recovery Act (H.R. 2938), and the Community Action Opioid Response Act (H.R. 5124). The congresswoman also recently joined lawmakers and the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) in an opioid-related forum to discuss harnessing the power, skills, and experience of Hawai"i and national community leaders to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic.