New York patients struggling to get prescription opioids since excise tax

Patients in New York who rely on prescription opioids to treat a range of conditions are now struggling to get access to their medications due to an excise tax the state placed on many types of opioids last year, Kaiser Health News reported. 

The state passed the tax in July 2019 as a way to punish drugmakers for their role in the opioid crisis and to raise funds for addiction treatment. But to avoid paying the tax, many drugmakers and wholesalers have stopped selling opioids in New York.

As a result, the tax has brought in less than $30 million in revenue, much lower than the $100 million that was expected, according to Kaiser Health News. The state's department of health has delayed twice this year a report on the impact of the tax.

Since the tax went into effect, Cardinal Health published a 10 page list of opioids it doesn't intend to carry. The company declined to comment to Kaiser Health News. 

Instead of punishing drugmakers and wholesalers,  the tax has hit pharmacies that  can no longer afford or access the opioids many patients use to control chronic pain. Nine independent pharmacies told Kaiser Health News that when they can obtain opioids, they are more expensive now and they have no choice but to absorb the cost, stop selling certain drugs or pass the expense to patients. 

Independent Pharmacy Cooperative told Kaiser Health News that about half of its revenue from opioid sales in New York would have to go to taxes. It no longer sells the opioids subject to the tax. AvKARE and Lupin Pharmaceuticals also told Kaiser Health News they do not ship opioids to New York anymore. Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which makes Angevine’s oxymorphone, declined to comment, as did Mallinckrodt.

Pharmacies that can't access the opioids also risk losing their customers. 

"When you lose their fentanyl, you generally lose all their other prescriptions,” Leigh McConchie, a New York pharmacy owner told Kaiser Health News, noting that few customers go to multiple pharmacies when they can get everything at one.

Several pharmacists told Kaiser Health News they're worried that patients who can't access their medications at pharmacies will turn to street drugs. 

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