Bill would add 10 cent tax per opioid pill

A bill in the Tennessee General Assembly would tax filled opioid prescriptions 10 cents per pill to fund drug prevention and education for youth, drug prevention and treatment centers and drug court programs.

A bill introduced Thursday would tax filled opioid prescriptions 10 cents per pill to fund drug prevention and treatment programs.

HB 2618, filed by Nashville Democrat Rep. Bo Mitchell, would allocate money from the tax for drug prevention and education for youth, drug prevention and treatment centers and drug court programs.

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Knoxville Democrat Rep. Rick Staples says the bill is separate from Democrats' $250 million response to Governor Bill Haslam's Tennessee Together initiative.

MORE: Haslam's plan to combat opioid crisis: prevention, treatment & law enforcement

"$30 million spread out across the state of Tennessee is just not enough," Staples said.

Though Staples calls for more funding, he questions using a tax on medicine to source that funding.

"A lot of of the time people are having problems purchasing medication now as is, and there's also the tricky issue of how do you capture that 10 cent tax, especially if the individual has insurance," Staples said.

Knoxville Republican Sen. Richard Briggs, who is also a surgeon, opposes the bill on principle.

"Properly used, the opioids are a very good medicine that have good therapeutic uses," Briggs said. "I'm not in favor of any more taxes on our constituents and our citizens, and so I would be opposed to that."

Though the bill has been introduced, its sponsors have not yet taken any further action with it.

Staples expects the future of the bill will depend on the success of Democrats of advance their opioid plan.

"You may put your bill on notice, but it has to make it through the committees first anyway," Staples said. "And a bill like this where you're capturing a tax would have to survive finance committee as well, so we'll have to see if he (Rep. Mitchell) will put that bill on notice, based off of the presentation of the budget that would add that $250 million."