Media outlets seized on a report released Feb. 12 by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) about financial support given by opioid manufacturers to patient advocacy groups. The report suggests that manufacturers influenced advocacy groups to campaign for relaxing opioid prescribing policies that some public health experts contend have contributed to the nationwide opioid epidemic. The report received widespread coverage in publications including the Associated Press, Reuters and USA Today.
Pharma companies have long faced accusations of manipulating patient advocates into siding with them on important public policy debates. The opioid epidemic has further fueled this scrutiny – just last week, The New York Times published a story about a proposal in Minnesota to tax opioid sales and the involvement of an advocacy group, the Addiction Policy Forum, that received funding from PhRMA.
The media’s focus on drug costs also has increased attention on industry-advocacy relationships. Kaiser Health News, The New England Journal of Medicine, STAT and The Wall Street Journal are among the publications that in the past year have critically examined potential conflicts of interest among advocacy groups that receive financial support from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
Here’s what we can expect moving forward:
Steve Weiss is a senior vice president, Health.