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Lawmakers Questioning Ties Between Painkiller Makers, Patient Groups

Filed May 9th, 2012 Laurie

On Tuesday, two senior senators said that they had opened an investigation into financial ties between producers of painkillers, and pain experts, patient advocacy groups, and organizations that set guidelines on how doctors use the drugs.

The Senate Finance Committee explained in a letter that it launched the inquiry to assure that physicians and patients were receiving accurate information about the risks and benefits of the medications without the influence of the producers’ financial interests.

The letter was signed by Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, and by Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

Narcotic painkillers, known as opioids, are the most commonly prescribed class of painkillers in the U.S, and prescriptions have increased fourfold in the last decade. Opioids include drugs like Oxycontin, Vicodin, fentanyl, and methadone. In this country, more people die from overdoses of Narcotic painkillers every year than people who die in car accidents. Concerns are growing that patients face major risks from these drugs when they are taken at high doses and over longer periods of time.

Among the companies selling opioids that received the letter Tuesday were Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin; Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes Percocet; and Johnson & Johnson, which markets Duragesic.

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