Wyden probes tax-exempt pain group with ties to opioid makers

Ranking Member Continues Oversight of Pharma Influence on Federal Panels with Letter to the American Academy of Pain Medicine

HHS Has Not Yet Responded to Wyden Concerns on Pain Task Force Conflicts of Interest

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today raised concerns about ties between opioid manufacturers and the tax-exempt American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), an organization that advocates on pain management issues including the use of opioids.

“The opioid epidemic is claiming tens of thousands of lives every year,” Wyden said. “As the federal government attempts to respond to one of the greatest public health crises in the last century, it is imperative to understand how the industry that distributes these powerful substances continues to shape the debate. I remain concerned that individuals with potential conflicts of interest are not adequately disclosing those ties to the federal government.” 

In the letter, Wyden asks AAPM to disclose payments to the organization from opioid manufacturers, medical device manufacturers and other health industry interests. Wyden also asks for information about coordination between AAPM and Purdue Pharma, in light of a $24,600 payment the company reported making to the organization’s current president in 2017. In addition, the letter seeks clarification of AAPM’s views on opioid prescribing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, as well as the organization’s views about the appropriate role for opioids in the treatment of chronic pain.

The letter to AAPM is the latest step in Wyden’s ongoing effort to bring transparency to organizations that advocate for pain management strategies that include opioids prescribing. In December, Wyden asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar to examine conflicts of interest among members of the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force, including members affiliated with AAPM. The Task Force’s purview was recently expanded to include making recommendations related to Medicare and Medicaid payment and coverage policies for treatment of opioid use disorder, including the use of medical devices. HHS has not yet responded to that letter. 

The full letter from Wyden to AAPM can be found here.