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What We're Reading: Taxing Opioids; Fentanyl Deaths in Alaska; Health Systems Target Drug Costs


Lawmakers in at least 10 states will consider taxes on makers of opioids in the upcoming legislative session depending on the results of the November election; the numbers may be low, but overdose deaths in Alaska involving fentanyl more than quadrupled in 2017; a new company created by health systems to address drug shortages and high-cost generics is taking shape with a name and a chief executive officer.

States Consider Opioid Taxes

Minnesota almost succeeded in taxing makers of opioids, and the state’s lawmakers plan to try again in January 2019. The state isn’t alone—lawmakers in at least 10 other states will consider opioid taxes, reported Kaiser Health News. New York launched its own opioid tax on July 1. The proceeds of the tax would help pay for addiction treatment and prevention, but whether or not states follow through on implementing these taxes will likely depend on if Democrats retake governorships and legislatures in the November election.

Alaska’s Fentanyl Deaths

The numbers may be low, but overdose deaths in Alaska involving fentanyl more than quadrupled in 2017. The Associated Press reported that 37 people died of fentanyl overdoses last year compared with just 8 the year before. With a small population, Alaska has had one of the highest per-capita death rates for prescription opioid overdoses. As the state’s illegal drug problem has worsened, so has associated crimes, like theft and violence.

Health Systems to Address Drug Shortages, High Generic Prices

In January 2018, a group of health systems announced they would band together to form a nonprofit generic drug company the address shortages and high-cost generics. Now, that company is taking shape. Civica Rx will be independent but include a board of governing members that include health systems like Intermountain Healthcare and the Mayo Clinic, and the company’s CEO will be Martin Van Trieste, a former Amgen executive, according to NPR. The company plans to market 14 common generic drugs, although the names of those drugs haven’t been released yet. They were chosen because they have been in short supply and their prices have recently risen.

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