Drugmakers Spent $9 Million In Five Years Promoting Opioids To Pain Treatment Advocacy Groups
According to a new report released by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Purdue Pharma, who manufactures OxyContin, gave $4.7 million to pain-treatment advocacy groups from 2012-2017. Moreover, Purdue and other drugmakers promoted opioid painkillers to people who are the most susceptible to addiction.
Millions more were dolled out to fourteen different groups by other drugmakers such as Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mylan N.V., Depomed, Inc., and Insys Therapeutics, Inc., for a total of $9 million.
The 23-page report, entitled Fueling an Epidemic: Exposing the Financial Ties Between Opioid Manufacturers and Third Party Advocacy Groups, highlights the drug industry’s efforts to manipulate public opinion and to increase demand for addictive drugs such as Oxycontin.
These medications are widely believed responsible for the opioid crisis that is now killing tens of thousands of people each year, leaving millions more dependent on prescription painkillers.
The report details how the arrangement between drugmakers and pain advocacy groups “may have played a significant role in creating the necessary conditions for the U.S. opioid epidemic.”
McCaskill, per StatNews:
“The pharmaceutical industry spent a generation downplaying the risks of opioid addiction and trying to expand their customer base for these incredibly dangerous medications, and this report makes clear they made investments in third-party organizations that could further those goals.”
“These financial relationships were insidious, lacked transparency and are one of many factors that have resulted in arguably the most deadly drug epidemic in American history.”
The report follows on the heels of a similar investigation by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IO) in 2012 that examined financial links between drug manufacturers and healthcare providers who helped establish opioid prescribing guidelines. The investigation, however, was eventually shelved.
But some companies and groups state they’ve amended their practices in light of the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharma recently issued a statement that the company has stopped marketing OxyContin to physicians. In recent years, the company has been accused of misleading both the medical community and the public about its potential for addiction.
The report also states that close to half of all health advocacy groups receive funds from drug makers and says “These financial relationships…have raised concerns regarding the information and initiatives patient advocacy organizations promote.”
The report notes a Journal of the American Medical Association study as estimating that 8% of these patient groups reported “pressure to conform their organizations’ positions to the interests of industry funders is of concern.”
The Associated Press wrote:
“The findings…could bolster hundreds of lawsuits that are aimed at holding opioid drugmakers responsible for helping fuel an epidemic blamed for the deaths of more than 340,000 Americans since 2000.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology