Burns: Require drug overdose survivors to get addiction treatment within 30 days, sue ‘Big Pharma’ for contributing to the crisis

EBENSBURG, June 7 – As part of a multi-pronged effort to combat opioid abuse, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, has introduced H.B. 1501, which would require those who experience a drug overdose event to seek addiction treatment within 30 days.

In Burn’s vision, funding for that treatment would come from pharmaceutical companies that have promoted the opioid crisis, as he earlier this year wrote letters to Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro urging a state lawsuit against “Big Pharma” for fostering the problem while lining its own pockets via prescription drugs.

“On the one hand, we need to have accountability and responsibility on the part of those who overdose. They should either accept treatment or go to jail, because repeatedly reviving them with naxalone without solving their underlying problem is insane,” Burns said. “On the other hand, taxpayers who had nothing to do with causing this epidemic shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill for treatment. Payment should come from those who profited by promoting the problem.”

Burns’ bill is companion legislation to a similar proposal in the state Senate, S.B. 654, which seeks to toughen existing state law relating to drug overdose response immunity.

“While I support the good intention of Act 139, the Drug Overdose Good Samaritan Law, we have learned from first responders that they have been repeatedly called to the same location for the same individual experiencing a drug overdose event,” Burns said. “It is imperative that we enact legislation to ensure that individuals suffering from drug-related diseases receive treatment. As such, this proposal will require, as a condition of immunity, that persons who have experienced drug overdose events to participate in treatment within 30 days.”  

Burns said that requiring treatment to curb addiction will prove less costly in the long run than repeated overdoses that require emergency responders, the administration of life-saving and expensive antidotes, and possible hospitalizations.

Other opioid-related parts of Burns’ legislative drug-fighting package are:

House Resolution 17, asking Congress to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reverse its directive allowing Oxycontin to be prescribed to those 11 to 16 years of age. It recently passed the House Human Services Committee and is awaiting a full vote by the House.

“Because prescription opioids are a known factor in leading to addiction, it makes no sense to prescribe these dangerously addictive drugs to children,” Burns said.

House Resolution 325, urging Congress to approve the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, which would close a dangerous loophole in federal shipping law that allows illegal drugs to reach U.S. soil. It is awaiting action by the House Human Services Committee.

“An estimated 340 million packages enter the United States each year without crucial information about origin, destination and contents,” Burns said. “By requiring this electronic customs data to be send in advance for postal shipments from foreign countries, we could better enable customs agents and Drug Enforcement Agency officials to seize packages of illegal drugs.”