Sacklers Gave Millions to Institution That Advises on Opioid Policy

As the Sackler donations grew, a Purdue Pharma lobbyist was trying to make inroads with the Academies, according to records released in lawsuits against opioid makers. The Pain Care Forum, a group co-founded by Burt Rosen, the Purdue lobbyist, pushed for legislation introduced in 2007 and 2009 that included calling for a National Academies report to “increase the recognition of pain as a significant public health problem.”

Soon after the measure passed in a 2010 law, Mr. Rosen convened the Pain Care Forum at a 10 p.m. gathering to focus on “meetings with the Institute of Medicine,” the former name for the National Academy of Medicine, and for “membership on I.O.M. Committee.”

At the same time, the National Academies was forming the committee that would produce its 2011 opioids report, which included the estimate that about 100 million or 42 percent of American adults were in pain, a figure that other researchers later found to be significantly inflated. The report described chronic pain that limited function and cost the nation billions of dollars in lost salary and wages. Later estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined chronic pain by different categories of severity, saying the condition affects 7 percent to 21 percent of Americans.

The report did not disclose any conflicts of interest for committee members nor did it disclose the Sackler funds. A spokeswoman for the National Academies said it did not release members’ conflict statements.

But among the panelists chosen, Dr. Richard Payne was president of the American Pain Society, a physicians group, in 2003 and 2004, which at the time drew more than $900,000 from Purdue. Dr. Payne died in 2019.

Another panelist, Myra Christopher, was swapping emails in 2007 with Purdue staff about “talking points” to respond to a news broadcast critical of opioids, records released in a Senate Finance Committee investigation in 2020 show.

At the time that the 2011 report was written, Ms. Christopher was president of the Center for Practical Bioethics, a nonprofit based in Kansas City, Mo. Purdue gave $934,770 to the organization that year. Asked about the funding, John Carney, a former chief executive at the center, sent an opinion article that stated the group’s donors did not dictate any of its work. Ms. Christopher declined to comment.



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