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Every legislative session, our lawmakers look to make health care more affordable and accessible, to ensure that patients are getting equitable and safe care. These efforts are valiant.

But with each legislative priority related to health care, it is crucial that our lawmakers consider the full impact. Health care is too delicate a subject for lawmakers not to work with industry, providers and patients to understand the full scope of any bill. Unintended consequences have real-life impacts, which is why I am speaking out against HF 1728/SF 2142, which would place a new fee on legal prescription opioids. This proposal is grossly unfair to patients and completely unnecessary.

Patients who suffer from excruciating chronic pain, who battle cancer or need surgery are the kinds of people who are prescribed opioid medications. By adding fees to the prescription opioid supply chain, lawmakers would effectively be increasing costs on these patients or reducing their access.

In fact, we've already seen this collateral damage stemming from previous one-size-fits-all, unbalanced government proposals, along with already existing shortages of medications at hospitals and pharmacies. Minnesotans with a medical necessity for opioids have seen prices rise and have experienced their medications being rationed.

What's worse, lawmakers continue stigmatizing and penalizing legitimate pain management under the guise of addressing the opioid epidemic. It is unacceptable.

I have worked as a board-certified anesthesiologist/pain management specialist for over 30 years. Whether battling a chronic condition or a rare disease, my patients live with severe, life-altering pain, which I work to treat, at times with opioid-based medications, so they can regain control of their lives and be relieved of suffering.

In some instances, I have observed patients unable to walk or get out of bed because of pain. Other patients have needed to take a step back from work, and they were unable to meaningfully contribute to their families and society. Not only does pain severely impact a person's well-being and quality of life, but it often leads to anxiety or depression if it goes untreated.

In some of my worst cases, I saw pain so unrelenting that my patients contemplated suicide. A new unfortunate reality is that suicide has increased among pain patients unable to continue to manage their condition with appropriate medications.

Our lawmakers are playing a dangerous game penalizing the legitimate use of pain medications, especially with so few non-opioid-based treatment options available. I cannot stand for it.

The proposed fee on Minnesota's prescription opioid supply chain also comes at a time when the government, with significant regulations, has made it extremely difficult for physicians to prescribe opioid medications. At the same time, Minnesota was already awarded over $300 million from an opioid settlement for addiction treatment and prevention, and there is a $17 billion budget surplus. Still, legislators are seeking more funds, and unfortunately, it would come at the expense of patients who are already suffering from guidelines that limit their access.

Our lawmakers must consider other ways to fund opioid addiction and abuse prevention programs. The people this law would impact are not addicts, and they certainly are not abusing medications. And that raises the question of whether this approach would even be effective, especially as illegal fentanyl continues to account for the vast majority of opioid-related deaths in our state.

I hope lawmakers take the time to listen to the concerns of our health care and pain community. We must work together to craft measured laws to combat the opioid crisis that do not penalize our legitimate pain patients.

Dr. Todd Hess, of Sunfish Lake, is a physician focused on pain management.