Bennet Introduces Legislation to Hold Opioid Executives Criminally Liable

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced the introduction of the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act, legislation to ensure opioid manufacturers and distributors provide funding to address the crisis they created. Introduced by a bicameral group of colleagues, the legislation strengthens the prohibition on illegal marketing and distribution of opioids; creates criminal liability for top company executives; and reinforces penalties for drug manufacturers who illegally advertise, market, or distribute an opioid product.
“Communities across the country are being ripped apart by the opioid epidemic. Multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and their executives reaped large profits for years while their questionable marketing and distribution practices precipitated a devastating public health crisis,” Bennet said. “It is far past time for Congress to ensure opioid manufacturers, distributors, and executives fund our response to the crisis they created. Our bill will support programs that combat the opioid crisis and ensure we hold companies and their executives accountable for any future misconduct.”

The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act would assess a general fine across all opioid manufacturers and distributers who produce or distribute opioid drugs covered by federal health programs during the period from January 1, 1993 through present day. The collected fees would create a fund to support programs and activities to combat the opioid crisis. For any future misconduct, the bill increases fines and penalties on companies and officers who engage in illegal marketing and distribution practices. 

The opioid epidemic is an urgent public health crisis. Nearly 70 percent of the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid, and the rate of opioid overdose is six times higher today than it was 20 years ago. The crisis is estimated to have cost the United States over $1 trillion between 2001 and 2017, and is estimated to cost another $500 billion by 2020.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).