- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to look into whether members of a federal panel on painkillers accepted financial payments from drugmakers.
- In a Feb. 5 letter, Wyden cited “a number of concerns” about some members of the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) who tried to undermine guidelines on opioid use being developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Lawmakers and public health officials have been struggling to reverse the uptick in opioid-related overdoses. Since 2000, the rate of overdose deaths shot up 200%, and opioids accounted for 61% of all overdose deaths in 2014, according to the CDC.
SEC filings for the Center for Practical Bioethics, whose former CEO Myra Christopher sits on the panel, show a $1.5 million endowment by Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma for an endowed chair at the organization, Wyden said. In addition, Purdue contributed $100,000 to the center in 2013. Christopher remains an employee there.
Another member of the IPRCC also works for the bioethics center. “I am concerned that this single organization with significant ties to a major opioid manufacturer had two paid staff sitting as committee members at the same time,” Wyden said.
The senator cited two other panel members whose organizations also received “substantial funding” from opioid manufacturers. Those organizations have expressed doubts about the CDC guidelines, which urge physicians to prescribe opioids only as a last resort after other therapies have failed.
The agency has postponed releasing the guidelines until another federal panel can review the recommendations, Stat reported.
Wyden, who serves as ranking chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asked Burwell to clarify the conflict-of-interest requirements for federal panel members.