February 08,2016

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Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Backs CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, Questions Pain Panel Industry Ties

Top Finance Democrat Opens Inquiry, Asks Secretary Burwell About Conflicts of Interest on Interagency Pain Research Committee

Wyden Also Offers Support for CDC Amid Unprecedented Opioid Epidemic in Oregon and Nationwide

WASHINGTON Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden offering support for the proposed CDC guidelines on opioid prescribing practices, which would give health care providers more tools and information about when prescribing opioids for chronic pain is appropriate. Wyden also sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell opening an inquiry about several potential conflicts of interest among members of the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC), which criticized the CDC’s efforts to curb opioid abuse.

“Doctors and families in Oregon and across the country need the best, most up-to-date information on how to prevent and treat the alarming rise of prescription drug misuse,” Wyden said. “The CDC’s efforts mark a turning point towards a smarter approach to pain management. I am going to ensure these guidelines are not influenced by the companies who manufacture opioids. Halting the opioid epidemic needs to start with how these drugs are prescribed in the first place. It’s going to take strong leadership and bold new ideas to get the job done.”

Prescription opioid addiction has become a public health epidemic, and its increased prevalence in recent years is cause for alarm. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from opioid-related overdoses has increased by 200% and in 2014 alone, 61% of all overdose deaths were opioid-related. In 2012, providers wrote 259 million opioid prescriptions, enough for a bottle of pills for every American adult. Moreover, prescription opioid sales are up 300% in the United States since 1999 despite not having a significant change in the amount of pain reported by American patients. Oregon ranks fourth in the U.S. in nonmedical use of pain relievers.

In his letter to Secretary Burwell, Wyden highlighted that several non-federal IPRCC members, their organizations, or both, appear to be recipients of funding from major pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids or related products at levels that raise concerns regarding the potential for conflicts of interest. There have been reports of efforts by the members of the IPRCC to weaken efforts underway at the CDC to develop guidance on opioid prescribing practices. Wyden asked for answers on whether IPRCC members disclosed potential conflicts of interest by February 26, 2016.

The letter to Secretary Burwell regarding the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee can be found here. The letter to Director Frieden regarding the CDC guidelines on opioid prescribing practices can be found here.