WASHINGTON, April 24 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced two amendments to the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 under consideration Tuesday in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The first amendment put forward by Sanders would impose retroactive civil fines on companies and executives that illegally marketed and/or distributed an opioid product and would punish future illegal activity with jail time for executives. The amendment is similar to legislation Sanders recently introduced to hold opioid makers accountable for their role in the epidemic.
“We have not yet held accountable the drug manufacturers for the product that they have created and sold, when it is quite likely they knew that the product they were selling was in fact addictive,” Sanders said. “It seems to me that what we have got to do is not only put federal money into fighting the opioid crisis, we have got to demand that those companies that manufactured the product and, in all likelihood, understood that product was addictive, understood that product was killing people, was wrecking human lives – they have got to be held accountable.”
Sanders also renewed his call for the Senate to hold hearings with the executives of companies that manufacture opioids. “The time is long overdue that we do here in this committee what was done in 1994 in the House and that is bring the manufacturers of these opioids right here and under oath ask them what they knew and when they knew it in terms of the addictive powers of the products that they were selling,” Sanders said.
Sanders' second amendment would double funding over five years for the National Health Service Corps. The National Health Service Corps plays a vital role in strengthening the nation’s primary care workforce. Currently, there are grave shortages in primary care across the country, and the National Health Service Corps has 10 times as many applicants as they have scholarship funding to accommodate. These shortages are worst in many of the same areas that are hardest hit by the opioid crisis.
This amendment, Sanders said, “is absolutely essential if we’re going to have the on-the-ground personnel that we need to address the crisis.”
Sanders' first amendment failed 8-15, and his second amendment failed 11-12.