Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are probing ties between manufacturers of opioid painkillers and medical groups that have advocated for increased use of such drugs for pain management. The intent of the probe is to establish the extent of financial ties between the two to determine whether there has been undue influence of industry on prescribing practices. The impetus for the probe is the high rate of abuse of prescription opioids, and the dangers such drugs pose. According to a press release from the two senators, deaths from painkiller overdoses have tripled over the last decade and led to the deaths of 14,800 Americans in 2008, exceeding those caused by heroin and cocaine combined.
Letters were sent to Perdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson, asking them to disclose financial ties to 10 medical groups and eight individuals who played a prominent role in setting pain management guidelines. The companies were also asked to provide all communications in regard to the book Responsible Opioid Prescribing: A Physician's Guide, distributed by the Federation of State Medical Boards, and communications in regard to the pain management guidelines published by several medical groups.
The Senators also sent letters to the American Pain Foundation, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, the Center for Practical Bioethics, the Wisconsin Pain and Policy Study Group, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and the Federation of State Medical Boards asking them to disclose financial support from any company that develops, manufactures, or distributes opioid pain medications.