Demise of American Pain Foundation Can Help End the Opioid Lunacy

In the lunacy of the over-prescribing of opioids for all levels of pain in the U.S. and Canada, there is now a large dose of sanity.  That sanity is an organization called Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP).  Their mission is to reduce morbidity and mortality from opioids and to promote cautious, safe, and responsible opioid prescribing practices.

The president of PROP is Andrew Kolodny, MD, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Centerin New York City. PROP gives some hope to families who are dealing with the death and addiction of loved ones.

I would like to introduce you to Dr. Kolodny and his thinking and ethics regarding the treatment of pain with opioids:

“For years now, many of us have waited for the day that a major media outlet would expose the American Pain Foundation’s relationship with Purdue and other opioid manufactures. Thanks to two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, that day has come,” Kolodny wrote back in December.

Kolodny is referring to a series of reports in ProPublica that revealed that pharmaceutical companies promote and market their opioids through industry funded pain society organizations, such as the American Pain Foundation (APF).  Some of the APF’s board members have extensive financial ties to drug makers, ProPublica found, and the group has lobbied against federal and state proposals to limit opioid use.

“Thanks to these reporters, APF’s ability to continue lobbying on behalf of opioid manufacturers has just been considerably weakened… and as a consequence, I suspect many lives will be saved,” Kolodny wrote.

It turns out the ProPublica stories were far more damaging to the American Pain Foundation than any of us imagined. The foundation announced May 8 that it has ceased operations because of “economic circumstances” — coincidentally the same day it was sent a letter by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee asking about its industry ties.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a powerful statement that the increase in the prescribing of opioids has resulted in a rise in overdose deaths.

Another federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), could also take a firm stand against the marketing and overprescribing of opioids. But the FDA allows it to continue — at the cost of tens of thousands of addictions and deaths each year. The regulation of dangerous and highly addictive opioids for severe pain only would save countless lives. Why does the FDA not take the lead and have a conscience by ending this prescription drug epidemic?

The FDA will be holding what it calls a “workshop” on May 30 and 31 entitled Assessment of Analgesic Treatment of Chronic Pain. The focus of the workshop will be on the use of opioids and other analgesics in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain.

Hopefully, members of PROP attending this workshop will bring studies proving to the FDA that we are in a tidal wave of deaths and addictions due to the over-prescribing of opioids. Everyone in the U.S. and Canada seems to recognize this fact — everyone but the FDA and the American Pain Foundation.

Marianne Skolek is an activist and investigative reporter who lost a daughter to prescribed OxyContin in 2002. Marianne writes from the perspective of families devastated by the prescription drug epidemic.

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