The financial ties between opioid manufacturers and pain-treatment advocacy groups appears to have played a significant role in creating the necessary conditions for the country’s opioid epidemic, according to a new report released by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
The report, Fueling an Epidemic: Exposing the Financial Ties Between Opioid Manufacturers and Third Party Advocacy Groups, reveals that during a five-year period beginning in 2012, drug companies funneled millions of dollars to pain-treatment groups, essentially crafting public opinion in favor of the highly addictive painkillers like OxyContin and fentanyl.
“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 their goals,” McCaskill said. “These financial relationships were insidious, lacked transparency and are on of many factors that have resulted in arguably the most deadly drug epidemic in American history.”
The U.S. Pain Foundation said that most of the $2.5 million it received from opioid makers went toward copay assistance. “The program is designed to ensure that people with cancer pain and breakthrough cancer pain have help paying the copays for prescribed analgesics,” the organization’s Founder and President Paul Gileno told NPR.
While the funds may be put to good use, there remains a lack of transparency that is concerning, the report highlights. It also references the Journal of the American Medical Association that claims 8 percent of patient groups in one study “reported [that] pressure to conform their organizations’ positions to the interests of industry funders is of concern.”
McCaskill’s report is the latest hit against the drug industry, which is being blamed, along with other groups, for fueling the opioid crisis. Cities, counties and states across the country have filed lawsuits alleging millions in economic damages, including the State of Alabama, which is suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. The lawsuit was filed by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. Beasley Allen lawyer Rhon E. Jones, head of the firm’s Toxic Torts Section, is acting as the Deputy Attorney General in this case.
At least 180 of these lawsuits have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation in the Northern District Court of Ohio under Judge Dan Aaron Polster. The MDL is expected to grow substantially as more lawsuits are filed against opioid makers, pharmaceutical companies and health care providers.