A brand-new stellar investigation by The Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity uncovers the prescription painkiller lobby’s efforts to derail efforts to curb U.S. intake.
It is yet another example of how powerful industry lobbies with deep pockets have the ability to shape policy and create narratives that place profits over public health.
- “In 2012, drugmakers and their affiliates in the forum sent a letter to U.S. senators promoting a hearing about an influential report on a “crisis of epidemic proportions”: pain in America. Few knew the report stemmed from legislation drafted and pushed by forum members and that their experts had helped author it. The report estimated more than 100 million Americans — roughly 40 percent of adults — suffered from chronic pain, an eye-popping statistic that some researchers call deeply problematic.”
- “The letter made no reference to another health issue that had been declared an epidemic by federal authorities: drug overdoses tied to prescription painkillers. Deaths linked to addictive drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet had increased more than fourfold since 1999, accounting for more fatal overdoses in 2012 than heroin and cocaine combined.”
- “An investigation by The Associated Press and The Center for Public Integrity reveals that similar feedback loops of information and influence play out regularly in the nation’s capital, fueled by money and talking points from the Pain Care Forum, a loose coalition of drugmakers, trade groups and dozens of nonprofits supported by industry funding that has flown under the radar until now.”
- “From 2006 through 2015, participants in the Pain Care Forum spent over $740 million lobbying in the nation’s capital and in all 50 statehouses on an array of issues, including opioid-related measures, according to an analysis of lobbying filings by the Center for Public Integrity and AP.”
- “You can go a long, long way in getting what you want when you have a lot of money,” said Professor Keith Humphreys of Stanford University, a former adviser on drug policy under President Barack Obama. “And it’s only when things get so disastrous that finally there’s enough popular will aroused to push back.”
- “Despite having no physical address or online presence, the Pain Care Forum hosts high-ranking officials from the White House, Food and Drug Administration and other agencies at its monthly gatherings. Drugmaker Purdue’s Washington lobbyist, Burt Rosen, co-founded the forum more than a decade ago and coordinates the group’s meetings, which include dozens of lobbyists and executives.”
- “While Purdue, Endo Pharmaceuticals and other members have maintained the forum does not take policy positions, the AP and Center for Public Integrity’s reporting shows the group’s participants have worked together to push and draft federal legislation, blunt regulations and influence decisions around opioids.”
- “By spring 2014, the figure that 100 million Americans suffered from chronic pain was getting new attention: as a talking point for the nation’s top drug regulator. But Michael Von Korff of the Group Health Research Institute, whose research contributed to the statistic, said the number has no connection to opioids. Instead, he said, it mostly represents “people with run-of-the-mill pain problems who are already managing them pretty well.”
- “Nearly half the experts assembled by the Institute of Medicine to write the 364-page report had served as leaders in Pain Care Forum-affiliated groups, such as the American Pain Foundation, the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine — all supported by industry funding.”