Major opioid manufacturers paid millions of dollars to groups that lobbied for increased opioid usage in the last five years, a Senate investigation claimed on Monday.
The investigation explored the financial ties between major opioid manufacturers and advocacy groups working in opioid policy. It found that many of the advocacy groups may have “played a significant role” in the U.S. opioid epidemic.
Between 2012 and 2017, five companies that produce top opioid products—Purdue, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Mylan, Insys Therapeutics and Depomed—together paid $8.8 million to 14 organizations that, according to the report, promoted opioid prescription, attempted to downplay the risk of addiction to opioids and lobbied against restrictions on overprescription.
Because of the organizations’ classification under the tax code, they don’t have a legal obligation to disclose their donors.
Janssen paid $465,152 and, in an email, referred to an announcement that it, too, had recently made the decision to stop promoting opioids (in 2015). “Since 2008, the volume of Janssen opioid medications always has amounted to less than one percent of the total prescriptions written per year for these medications,” a spokesperson wrote.
Mylan, in its response, said the inquiry showed “Mylan’s limited role in the manufacturing and marketing of opioids.” A spokeswoman noted that Mylan made limited payments ($20,250, according to the report) to the American Pain Society, solely for its annual conferences.
The president of the U.S. Pain Foundation (which received over $2.9 million from the opioid manufacturers), Paul Gileno, wrote in an email to Newsweek, “We have never lobbied for the increased use of opioids and never would. It’s appalling to me that this would be suggested. We certainly have not contributed to the opioid epidemic. We work hard to educate and empower patients on all options of treatments.”
The report comes at a time when the opioid crisis has left Americans reeling. Opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control. And opioid overdose deaths in 2016 were five times higher than in 1999.