July 05,2016

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Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Concerned by National Academy Committee Ties to Opioid Manufacturers

Ahead of Wednesday Meeting, Oregon Democrat Raises Conflicts of Interest Among Provisional Members of National Academy of Medicine’s Opioid Panel

WASHINGTON Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is raising concerns that a National Academy of Medicine (NAM) panel set to begin studying prescription opioid abuse in the United States has been insufficiently vetted for potential financial ties to opioid manufacturers.

In a letter sent to Dr. Victor Dzau, president of NAM, Wyden wrote that Senate investigators found that at least two of the prospective members of the Pain Management and Regulatory Strategies to Address Prescription Opioid Abuse committee had direct and indirect financial ties to opioid manufacturers that should be considered conflicts of interest.

The opioid abuse committee is set to meet for the first time at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6 in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, panel members will discuss their potential conflicts of interest and potential biases; however, that portion of the meeting is closed to the public.

The Food and Drug Administration has said it will use the opioid abuse committee’s recommendations in its policymaking process.

If the National Academy of Medicine was aware of these relationships and did not publicize them, the omissions may undermine the public’s confidence that the organization has done everything it can to ensure that the committee can ‘address its charge objectively,’” Wyden wrote. “If the National Academy of Medicine was unaware of these relationships or made the committee selections knowing that the relationships existed, the Academy should consider restarting the provisional appointment process, including a new review of committee members’ experience and potential biases and conflicts of interest.”

In the letter, Wyden details omissions related to provisional committee members, Dr. Gregory Terman and Dr. Mary Lynn McPherson. Both hold or have held leadership positions in professional societies with substantial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and, specifically, opioid manufacturers. These relationships suggest conflicts and biases that should have been made public when the provisional membership slate was made last month, and require further examination by the NAM.

Opioid addiction has developed into a devastating crisis around the country, resulting in 18,893 prescription pain reliever-related deaths in 2014 alone. Prescription opioid sales have increased 300% in the United States since 1999, an increase which has coincided with a rapid increase in rates of opioid utilization and addiction across the country.

The letter comes as Wyden continues to request information from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding conflicts of interest on the Interagency Pain Research and Coordinating Committee (IPRCC), another federal panel that advises government agencies on pain policy, including prescription opioids.