A recent probe conducted by Senator Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) office found that five large pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of OxyContin, and the company most directly tied to the opioid crisis, donated $9 million to third-party advocacy groups which “in turn have engaged in pro-opioid advocacy over a long period of time, including through guidance minimizing the risks of opioid addiction and the endorsement of opioid use for the long-term treatment of chronic pain.”
The investigation also found an additional $1.6 million was paid to physicians connected with these pro-opioid groups.
A few examples from the investigation:
The American Academy of Pain Medicine received nearly $1.2 million from the five pharmaceutical companies, and in their 2009 patient guide they wrote that “opioids are rarely addictive when used properly for the management of chronic pain.”
The Academy of Integrative Pain Management received over $1.2 million in donations and subsequently lobbied against limits on opioid prescribing in 18 states.
The Washington Legal Foundation received $500k from Purdue Pharma and later criticized 2016 CDC guidelines that recommended limits on opioid prescriptions.
This revelation is hardly surprising given the tactics generally employed by Purdue Pharma and others. Purdue marketed OxyContin, which is time-released oxycodone, a substance that is molecularly identical to heroin, as a safe, largely non-addictive substance. They deceived doctors and patients, and helped get millions of people hooked on opioids while bringing in billions.
Purdue Pharma cited a letter written to the New England Journal of Medicine as if it were a peer-reviewed study; they paid physicians to attend propagandistic seminars; they spent hundreds of millions in marketing and advertising; they even spelled out “OxyContin” in doughnuts. Nothing was out of bounds when it came to building their new narrative, and McCaskill’s finding is just more evidence of this.
Written by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.