Journalism in the Public Interest

American Pain Foundation Shuts Down as Senators Launch Investigation of Prescription Narcotics

Sens. Baucus and Grassley demand evidence of financial support from the drug industry to nonprofit groups that advocate use of opioid painkillers, including the newly defunct American Pain Foundation.


A version of this story was published in The Washington Post.

As the U.S. Senate Finance Committee launched an investigation Tuesday into makers of narcotic painkillers and groups that champion them, a leading pain advocacy organization said it was dissolving "due to irreparable economic circumstances."

The American Pain Foundation, which described itself as the nation’s largest organization for pain patients, was the focus of a December investigation by ProPublica in The Washington Post that detailed its close ties to drugmakers.

The group received 90 percent of its $5 million in funding in 2010 from the drug and medical-device industry, ProPublica found, and its guides for patients, journalists and policymakers had played down the risks associated with opioid painkillers while exaggerating the benefits.

It is unclear whether the group's announcement Tuesday evening — that it would "cease to exist, effective immediately" — was related to letters sent earlier in the day from Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the finance panel chairman, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to the foundation, drug companies and others.

In the letters, the senators cited an "an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction resulting from the increased sale and use of powerful narcotic painkillers," including popular brand names like Oxycontin, Vicodin and Opana.

Growing evidence, they wrote, suggests that drug companies "may be responsible, at least in part, for this epidemic by promoting misleading information about the drugs' safety and effectiveness."

The American Pain Foundation's website carried a statement Tuesday night saying its board had voted May 3 to dissolve the organization because it couldn't stay "operational." The foundation did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The senators are targeting a who's who of the pain industry, seeking extensive records and correspondence documenting the links, financial and otherwise, between them and the makers of the top-prescribed narcotic painkillers.

Letters went to three pharmaceutical companies, Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, as well as five groups that support pain patients, physicians or research: the American Pain Foundation, American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Pain Society, Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group, and the Center for Practical Bioethics.

The Federation of State Medical Boards, the trade group for agencies that license doctors, received a letter, as did The Joint Commission, an independent nonprofit that accredits hospitals nationwide and made pain management a national priority in 2001.

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2003 noted that the commission partnered with Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, to distribute pain educational materials nationwide. The committee's letter to Purdue noted that the company pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal criminal charges that it misled regulators, physicians and consumers about Oxycontin's risk of addiction.

The senators requested payment information since 1997 to 10 groups and eight people, including two doctors featured in ProPublica's December report. They asked about any influence the companies had on a 2004 pain guide for physicians that was distributed by the Federation of State Medical Boards; on the American Pain Society's guidelines; and on the American Pain Foundation's Military/Veterans Pain Initiative.

In addition to citing ProPublica's work, the letters also mention the reporting of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MedPage Today.

Patients in serious pain need access to opioids, the senators wrote, but drugmakers and health-care groups "must distribute accurate information about these drugs in order to prevent improper use and diversion to drug abusers."

"The problem of opioid abuse is bad and getting worse," Sen. Grassley said in a statement. "Something has to change."

"When it comes to these highly addictive painkillers, improper relationships between pharmaceutical companies and the organizations that promote their drugs can put lives at risk," Baucus said in a prepared statement.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chairman of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, applauded the investigation.

"These groups, these pain organizations … helped usher in an epidemic that's killed 100,000 people by promoting aggressive use of opioids," Kolodny said. "What makes this especially disturbing is that despite overwhelming evidence that their effort created a public health crisis, they're continuing to minimize the risk of addiction."

Concerns about the overuse and abuse of painkillers have intensified in recent years. As sales of the powerful drugs have boomed — rising 300 percent since 1999 — so, too, have overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 14,800 overdose deaths in 2008, more than cocaine and heroin combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2009, the use and misuse of the drugs were cited in more than 475,000 emergency department visits, nearly doubling the 2004 number, the CDC said.

Pain doctors and patient groups say that while drug overdoses are a legitimate concern, only a small percentage of deaths involves patients who receive them from their doctors. Most deaths involve illicitly obtained drugs, statistics show.

The groups also say that patients' risk is low if they do not have addictive personalities, and that any restrictions should not punish patients who suffer from serious pain.

In recent weeks, two articles in medical journals have documented different aspects of abuse.

According to a paper published online this week by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of every eight high school seniors surveyed said they had used prescription opioids for nonmedical reasons.

A paper released last month by The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the rate of newborns diagnosed with drug withdrawal jumped threefold from 2000 to 2009. And the rate of mothers using opioids at the time of delivery was five times higher in 2009. (Not all babies born to mothers using the drugs exhibit signs of withdrawal.)

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that makes the painkiller Nucynta, said in a statement that it "is committed to the responsible prescribing and appropriate use of opioid pain medications" and has supported educational websites about safe use.

The company is reviewing the senators' letter and "will work with them to fulfill their request for information," spokesman Mark Wolfe said via email.

Purdue Pharma acknowledged in a statement that it had received the letter, was reviewing it and looked forward to "cooperating with the committee on this matter."

Endo did not return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for The Joint Commission said the group had just received the senators' letter and had no comment yet. The Federation of State Medical Boards responded but did not offer immediate comment.

Thank you for your efforts to cover this important public area that costs more lives than suicide, guns, and in some states auto accidents.  It is sad that organized medicine has been slow slow to act and in acting has been soft in voice and gentle timbre, save for the State of Washington.

The use of opiates in young people with everyday problems is hard to justify. There is no good evidence to justify the practice, and much history to show the consequences.

Propublica should have a book for journalists with resources on the subject.

Pain is good. It keep people dysfunctional and that is better for Washington.

Buried in this article is the truth: when taken under a doctors supervision the risk to the patient of addiction is approximately 3-4%. Others, like Kolodny say the addiction rate among patients using these legitimate medicines is much, much higher. It is not.

Yes there is a very real problem with the illicit use of these medicines and the operative word in this is “illicit.” When opioid meds are mixed with other medicines, for example, bezodiazipines and washed down with alcohol, then yes, that combination is lethal. But again, this doesn’t come from patients diverting their medicines. All one has to do to see where this diversion comes from is to read recent reports on the pill mills that were in operation in Florida.

The American Pain Foundation did not play down the dangers of these medicines. On the contrary, it worked to find solutions to this problem that were balanced: protect the public as best as possible through provider/patient education based on the current REMS for opioids while making sure that patients suffering from chronic pain, and in the U.S. that is, as described by the Institute for Medicine, as in excess of 100 million Americans.

The APF worked hard on balance so that those of us living with the daily torture of harrowing pain might find relief through best practices of medicine.

All we ask for is balance so that the public is protected and that legitimate pain patients can have the best, most effective treatment.

As for balance, simply reread this and other articles on this subject by ProPublica and ask yourself if their articles are balanced. A careful read would indicate that they are not.

No matter how Kolodny and others spin this, balance is not one of their concerns.

The greed breed can never be trusted with the public health!  The pain these people cause is far beyond any good that they do!!

over the years and many surgeries, i have come to the conclusion that these so called ‘pain killers’ do nothing more than dull your brain to the pain and do nothing for the actual pain, let alone depleting the immune system from the narcotic affects. for my last hip surgery, i took NOTHING. yep.. nothing! i began home therapy right away and when the pain was too much, i massaged the incision site until the pain subsided. same goes for a shattered leg a few years back where i darn near had to have my leg amputated. There ARE other solutions for pain management, but Big Pharma has brain washed the public into thinking we need them and produce deadly pills for any ails. and the sheep follow. i have yet to meet but a handful of people who followed ‘doctors orders’ when in pain. seriously, drastic measures need to take place in order to keep corporations and politicians separated for the good of We the People. this is just but one small example of how these demons operate. completely disgusting.

Congratulations on bringing out the truth about prescription pain meds.  Purdue Pharma (oxycontin) as well as others, have done great harm to the public.  We are living thru a man-made epidemic. The warnings have been building and finally, hopefully, a spotlight on this tragedy. Keep up the great work.

James Lackey

May 9, 2012, 4:44 p.m.

This is BS. The insurance companies are just trying to get our of paying for pain medication. I watched my mother in law go several years of debilitation pain with osteoporosis. She desperately needed everything they gave her and in the end that wasn’t enough. I have severe arthritis and in my heart. I have to exercise to avoid further heart problems but I can’t take aspirin. Tylenol has no affect on me. That leaves codeine or heart disease. Codeine is somewhat less expensive and more desirable than the alternative.

James Lackey

May 9, 2012, 4:45 p.m.

This is BS. The insurance companies are just trying to get out of paying for pain medication. I watched my mother in law go several years of debilitating pain with osteoporosis. She desperately needed everything they gave her and in the end that wasn’t enough. I have severe arthritis and stents in my heart. I have to exercise to avoid further heart problems but I can’t take aspirin. Tylenol has no affect on me. That leaves codeine or heart disease. Codeine is somewhat less expensive and more desirable than the alternative.

Brett Sherman

May 9, 2012, 4:58 p.m.


Ahhh - the old (mostly) uncontroversial idea that abusing hard drugs is bad!  I admire the Senate for punting on our crumbling society’s crucial issues. In the words of James Carville, “it’s the economy stupid…”. Indeed, the economy should be the only issue (and this is mild hyperbole) that receives attention from the Congress unsettle the system is fixed.

On the positive side though, at least this one should hurt Rush Limbaugh where it counts.

Ricardo Mendez

May 9, 2012, 5:08 p.m.

After spinal surgery in the mid 1990s, my doctor prescribed Vicodin, which I started to take in fear of the oncoming pain. The next day, his medical partner told me she was going to leave us a prescription for Vicodin. When I told her I had one already -with multiple refills- she said she’d do it anyway just in case. I thought it was odd but didn’t argue, but when that very afternoon a third doctor told me the same thing I strongly objected. Why would anyone possibly need three prescriptions for the same drug at the same time? All with multiple refills! He agreed, but after he left the nurse told us he’d written the prescription anyway. That got me thinking, why are these otherwise cautious and thorough doctors pushing these pills on me? After I got home I decided to stop the medication, and to my surprise there was no pain at all. I discarded the unused tablets and the other two duplicate prescriptions, but feel certain most other patients would not do the same.

I was one of those cases where medication was legitimately needed, but that’s not really the issue in question. What we need to ask is what exactly was motivitating these doctors to deal so frivoulously with this highly addictive drug. I for one am glad ProPublica and others are asking. What responsible people should question now is not wether there is “balance” in their reporting, but rather how and when any parties guilty of misleading the public about these dangerous opiates can be indicted. After all, when a journalist’s main goal is the search for the truth, I can’t think of anything good they could “balance” that with.

i’m thinking doctors get kickbacks from Big Pharma?
on another note.. think of all the drugs being flushed down toilets, garbage disposals or landfills, all of which pollute our ground water..
so glad ProPublica is asking many questions.. it’s about time more do the same thing!

Sorry folks, but I am in the medical industry and pain meds are a big problem.  There are many ways to control pain other than meds, but its pushed by the big pharm companies.  I broke my back in 2009 and only took 1 dose of pain meds, which the hospital gave me when it first happened.  If I had been asked before they put them in my IV I wouldn’t have had that dose.  When I was leaving the hospital, the doc asked me what I wanted for pain.  He said he could give me almost anything with my condition.  I told him thanks, but no thanks.  I use self hypnosis, which works just as good and has no side effects.  The abuse of these drugs is unreal.  You would not beleve how many people doctor shop every day to get these meds.  And it doesn’t only happen in FL, happens in small towns.  Most of these meds should be banned, and addiction is very easy if you take them enough.  Your body begins to crave them and it happens to people in all walks of life.  Don’t think it can’t happen to you, cos it can.

Brandon Adams

May 9, 2012, 5:33 p.m.

For anyone who thinks opioid pain killers aren’t useful, I suggest an experiment:

1. Cut out a chunk of your tongue, about one inch in diameter.
2. Suture the wound.
3. Attempt to function normally without an opioid pain killer.

I’ve had steps one and two done to me, but there was no way for me to do step three.  My doctor cut me off after five days or so, likely due to the sentiment behind this article, and it was hell.

On Vicodin I was able to work, but without it I just showed up to work and did everything I possibly could to distract myself from the pain and minimize using my tongue.  This was mostly sitting still, browsing the web, and hoping that none of my co-workers needed my help.

None of the non-opioid pain killers I tried helped, not with that kind of pain.

Daivd Thompson

May 9, 2012, 5:50 p.m.

Are these congress people aware that many legitimate patients cannot get their pain meds.  They have been examined by qualified doctors.  They have file folders of infomation they carry with them,  They have legal prescriptions yet when they go to a pharmacy a pharmacy tech does a visual exam and determines who gets their pain meds and who does not.  If the pharmacist knows more than the doctor why cant i just be visual examined by pharmacist and never go to a doctor.
  Are these representatives aware that the mom and pop pharmacies only accept cash, mostly over $7 per pill.  Are they aware that only drug dealers can afford this.  These policies make the dealers rich.
  Are these represntatives aware that CVS pharmacist get a bonus which depends on what they they fill.  This are the same people who are independent contractors and largely unregulated by often beret me for my prescription.
  Are these representatives aware that some people are in pain that is not visual to an untrained person.  Can they tell every person who suffers from cancer on the street.  Well pharmacist have this ability as they refuse to fill prescriptions for people that need them.  They must have those x-ray glasses advertised in the back of old comic books.
  Are these representatives aware of how people are ridiculed and treat for their pain.  We are humiliated and degraded in front of the public.
    Are these representatives aware that come election time standing next to a grieving mother who had a soon overdose on oxycodone (never to mention the alcohol and history of drug abuse) is very advantageous to their re election campaign?  YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT THEY DO!!!!!!!

I knew a ‘holy” man, a religious man, a man whose father was dying of cancer.
The father was in extreme pain which could have been managed by the currently available medications.
This holy religious man opposed using any medications for spiritual reasons like suffering is good for the soul.
Eventually his father died, a horrible painful death, much more painful than his soul ever needed for its salvation, but he was not addicted to any of the medications that he might have become addicted to if his terminal cancer had not killed him in the weeks or months he had left to live.  As if addiction makes any difference to dead people.
May the holy religious man have non-caregiving children like he is.

Once again the media is attacking precription medicines for pain. I have to say, I am really tired of articles that blow this out proportion.
There is no way, that anyone will change my mind that many legitimate pain patients do not need these medicines. I honestly feel, that all this is political. It is clear that our government can not make any head way with the REAl issues the country is facing so they are picking on the weakest link. Americans with pain that have no life without relief. Thise injections and surgeries are not alway the answer. They have found ineffective in most cases and many patients that have had surgey are still in pain. Pain is a personal thing. No one knows how a patients feels. Pain is the 5th vital sign when going to the doctor and is the most reason for doctor visits. You can’t tell me that someone that has been in horrible auto accidents that all of them have recovered with no pain left over. There are many reasons why people today need pain medicines. The list is too long to list here. We have more people today that are living longer and more diseases that are requiring use of these medications. Fibromyagia didn’t even have a name a few years ago. Anti-depressants are not a cure oreven useful for this pain problem. I have tried all the therapies and nothing helped but pain relievers. Baby boomer population is aging with no cures for any arthritis types.
Besides any of this… Opiate medications have been around for thousands years. The drugs that are killing kids today didn’t come from most patients. They are black marketed and the deaths are from mutiple intoxicants. Alcohol is the worst drug in the US and no one is trying to stop that. That is the gate way drug. That causes kids to try other things. So, I’m not buying all of this negative crap against p[ain medicines that allow people to feel some comfort from the pain they live with everyday. Until you live like this, don’t tell anyone how they feel or should feel. This political, no doubt about it! The worries of our government today, should be housing crisis, food shortages, gas prices, national debt and getting our country back on track. Stop attcking compassionate doctors that care about people and start doing your jobs in Washington DC! This country is going down hill and in fact has nearly hit bottom. There is no reason for anyone with pain to even have a will to live with way our country is going. More suicides will result from taking these medications away from people who need them. People fight for your rights!! You have choices. If someone else chooses to live with pain then let them. Everyone is different and we don’t need the government telling us how to feel or live. Stand America, fight back for your rights!! Discrimination is very widespread here. make the the US start fixing the REAL problems and leave pain patients alone.

Interesting that most who comment here who describe being able to get over acute pain have suffered from only that - a single surgical experience or incident. Yes, it’s possible to tough out severe pain for a while especially when the body quickly heals or becomes “used” to a certain level of injury. However, try spinal, rib and arm fractures, fibromyalgia, post-polio syndrome, lupus, Crohn’s disease, severe osteoporosis, lasting post-surgical pain from a myriad of lifesaving procedures and the depression that comes from dealing with the lifelong aftermath of all of the above. Then tell me I don’t need a small amount of legal opiates, taken at the same dose every day for over a decade now, to deal with all that and still have any kind of life. As this population ages there are so many like myself that they can hardly be counted! How many of us would have committed suicide or become babbling idiots without pain control? That’s a statistic that nobody seems willing to promote.

A problem that the goverment created has turned into a political nightmare, that is leaving hundreds of million of people fighting for thier medication everymonth,and wondering if we have any to get thru the month from pain, cancer,from accidents,the war,incureable diseases , shattered bodies beyond repair, which millions of people have to deal with to have or try to have a better quality of life ,they have out dated statisics,and got the dea playing god,with peoples lifes that so rightously deserve to live with out pain.  You reps in washington dont deserve the money your paid,maybe we should cut your pay and see how well you work out the problems of this country,cause you sure cant with what your getting now..We the people have the right to be able to go to our local pharmcay and have are opiates filled everymonth with out being profiled and lie too, the goverment let all these pill mills to operate from day one and give dealers easy access to all these narcotics for years, now you have a grip on all this in the state of florida,and spent millions odf our tax money to put this new data base in,and you havent even let it work,instead the dea comes into it and is playing god over these pain meds scaring pharmacies outta thier dea lic and automatically knowing what amount is to much be distributed without finding out how many were taking it for legitmate reasons, what a waste of money on the data base, now legitimate people cant get thier medications every month because the dea has created a shortage and only allowing pharmacies allowments which doesnt even come close to taking care of everyones scripts, and i for one am tired of having to take 2 full days everymonth to find a place with my medication and everyone else too, WELL ITS ELECTION YEAR SOMEONE IN WASHINGTON NEEDS TO CHANGE THIS, or were gonna see alotta new faces, in our goverment,  because thier not listining to us…  Its a real shame that all you have done is help the drug dealers, while all us legitimate people suffer and watch our health get worse due to the stress and anxiety you place among us all for something you the goverment let happen…  I REALLY WONDER WHO GETS THE VOTES….

the problem isn’t the company’s that make them or the insurance company’s that pay for them but the lack of supervision over the doctors that are allowed to prescribe these meds. until recently here in Florida there hasn’t been any regulations made for these pain clinics or the criteria in which you should meet to receive these types of meds. i myself have witnessed while sitting in my old PM clinic people coming in with mri’s that only reflect a pulled muscle. so due to these “free for all” type doctoring for opiate related medications what was once supposed to be used in helping those cope with debilitating pain has now turned into a common street drug. so to punish those that can prove that these medicines are needed for them to function in there daily lives is not only insane its immoral.

I’m glad to see some oversight for a change, however, most of this medication is garbage.  Our countries doctors are nothing more than poisoners.  They lie to the public, they lie to our politicians, they lie, they lie, they lie.  Unfortunately many people have died as a result.  American doctors worked hand in hand with Germany’s doctors prior to WW II.  Ironically enough, the “Healthcare” Giant we know as Bayer ran concentration camps and fully supported the Nazi party.  Geez, do you really think they’re about healthcare?  We fortunately hung the German doctors, unfortunately, we didn’t hang our own…

Some other types of drugs prescribed for chronic pain are much more expensive, habit-forming, and have a variety of very serious side effects.  Legitimate patients are pushed to spend thousands per month on these and suffer appalling side effects even in cases where opioids are cheaper and safer.  And drug companies profit much more.  Patients can also be pushed to pursue dangerous and ineffective surgeries because of the push to avoid opioids.  The entire pain industry is rife with lucrative conflicts of interest, and opioids are really the least it. 

Propublica, if your goal is to expose profit motives around the pain industry, please pursue balance by at least exploring these issues.  I am a huge fan of the quality and balance of your work, but in this case I think you are taking a lazy, biased and politically expedient position.

as a Combat Wounded Vet i get pretty good svc at the VA ~ i wish everyone had this type of health coverage ~ just don’t get sick after 2pm or on weekends.
  But recently i had a serious bout IE withdrawal from Tramadol. i had no idea that after VA prescribed Cortisone shots in my lower back that i’d not longer need these pills and i was popping them avg 6 times a day last Fall ... so i stoppped using them and BAMMMMMM i could not stop the body tremors and shakes i could not sleep for the shakes ~ when it first started All at once i went to the computer and looked up body tremors and damn if Tramadol wasn’t in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia info.
  It took 4 weeks for me to finally come off of it and when it started it was the WEEKEND what’d i say ‘bout getting sick on the weekend ~ VA no one is home not that i didn’t try.
  Tramadol is a synthetic narcotic and i found out it is a Big drug in the upper Mediterranean region, Russia, Ukraine ...

i forgot to say that if it weren’t for Pain we might not have any arms or legs ~ that being said Baucus is a lying low life Insurance Cartel PIG at the Pharma trough ~ he should be drawn and quarted Now.

I agree with Em. The most expensive medicines have been reformulated. They are not abusable. So why does everyone keep talking about oxycontin? It’s not nearly as effective as it was. It’s been ruined to suit addicts. They shouldn’t have taken them in the first place. The additives that the FDA has put in those OP’s has caused many people bad side effects like, indigestion, swelling of the feet and legs, hands and face, and possibly kidney problems from the polymers added. Patients have no choices because most everything causes fatigue, except oxycodone. Being able to function was why pain medicines are given in the first place.  These medicines were found safe in 2005 and many years before that. None of these effects were happening before. reformulating these medicines to suit addicts so they can’t abuse them but they are the minority here. I read today that it has been estimated 14 million 5 hundred thousand addicts in the US. That is very low compared to the 100 miilion that have chronic pain every pain everyday and how about only 14,500 dying in a year in 2008? That is very low compared to people that take as prescribed. Come on now. This has become rediculous! There are namy other things that cause death in way larger numbers! Those same addicts would have died from something else anyway from alcohol and illegal drugs. Stop blaming patients for kids drug problems. They were stealing them and buying from the black market, knowing the risks they abused them anyway. No doctors are handing out medicine from the office anymore. That has stopped. Thank God!
The statistics need to be redone! They are OLD!! Why does the media keep using those numbers from 2009??? Things have changed severely!! The pill mills that were purchasing all this medicine are gone.
Legitimate patients take their medicine as prescribed and have no problems. We never hear anything about that. It’s always the few addicts that abused that get all attention. It’s high time that pain patients be left alone and left to live their painful lives in peace. It also bothers me that patients can’t live anywhere they choose. They have to worry about if there is a pain doctor where they want to live/ You know ?? Because the DEA and government have them so afraid to take care of pain patients that these doctors are hard to find. This is not American!!
Always having to worry if they will be able to obtain the maintance meds they depend on for a more functioning life.  We don’t need any more surgeries than we already have. Most everyone with chronic pain has some kind of failed back or neck surgery or failed procedures. Thats why they are taking the medicines most of the time. A bunch of crazy invasive operations and procedures have caused tons of disabled patients. Why don’t they talk about this? Just the other day, I read that a class action law suit is out for anyone that cervical fusion done with medtronic, instead using bone from the hip to fill the space, they were putting in something else that wasn’t FDA approved for necks. Now they are finding cases of cancer coming from that.
Patients need to be able to get their legal prescriptions filled and we need to keep our compassionate doctors that are willing to keep us on therapy with pain medicine.  If strong pain medicine is taken properly and stored safely, very little problems. So the government needs to save tax payers money and start worrying about the countries REAL problems. We all think it’s time for that.  We need to change all of Congress. They haven’t done anything but harm the country and now harm the weakest people in the US. How sad is that?
It’s all politics! It’s very easy to figure out. We will be very careful who vote for. That’s for damn sure. We need a government that cares about legitimate non cancer pain. According to the US constitution, Americans have rights to have ther pain treated and should have choices on what methods they choose. Stop the MEDIA hype! and start worrying about the National debt. Stop the war on drugs!! and patients too!

This is a shame for chronic pain sufferers and I wish APF users luck in finding a new location.  I am the co-founder of, a health social network focused on connecting people with similar health experiences.  The company is independent and self-funded.  Feel free to check out our 1min demo video:

Sandy A Sullivan

May 10, 2012, 1:42 p.m.

We know the heart association takes money. The diabetes orgs, the breast cancer org all take money in from drug companies so please tell me where is their investigation?

People on here vocalizing their outrage at pain medicine obviously have no family that are chronic pain patients and are not chronic pain patients themselves.


You are being lied to. You folks need to meet people who live with chronic pain. See what we already suffer from see what we already go through. The suicide rate among CPPs is on the rise NOW. People with cancer are now suffering. Is this what you guys really want?!  THINK! Ask the questions and meet sick people. It’s important! We suffer enough already and you lot would have us suffer more? Have you NO SHAME? No sense of decency? You’ll regret it when it happens to YOU. 25% of population suffers from chronic, incurable pain right NOW.  Living stoically in pain is not the answer! People in chronic pain do NOT get high off these medications that is why the addiction rate for those that suffer is 1% ONE PERCENT!

Lyrica, Cymbalta, Paxil and many other drugs like them - all frequently prescribed medications, all highly addictive with dependent qualities to them the same as opiates - all have deaths attributed to them too. What is the difference? Why are these not as controlled as opiates? STREET VALUE! So people in pain are to suffer due to the misdeeds of others?

Gary Bourbonais

May 10, 2012, 2:25 p.m.

If you are afflicted with pain constantly, the opioid medications are a life saver….Almost miraculous….

Trust me, you do not *ever* want to be in the position that you need them for pain….But if you are, you will thank the higher powers that they exist….

The Senate really ought to get off their butts and pass a budget, instead of tilting at windmills….

How come mine and my families experience is that you have to beg your doctor to prescribe any kind of decent pain medication?  People buy these drugs illegally because the damn doctors are so reluctant to prescribe them.  After injuring my back a few years ago the doctor refused to give me more than one weeks worth of vicodin, which forced me to purchase the only real pain medicine I could find at the time, heroin.  I used it for the next few weeks and no, I did not get addicted and it was not a sickening as vicodin.

This is shameful. this isnt fair. Isnt fair at all. Im sorry people were abusing them but…what about ME?! My case is so different, and yet i’m being ‘punished’ all the same.

I have a sensory processing disorder. Specifically, tactile pain. What this means, and I’m not exaggerating, is every physical sensation is painful. My own touch is painful. wind, painful. showers, painful. And if anyone else touches me, it is even worse.

I was born like this. and it wont ever go away. and now I cant even rely on getting traeted. No, no I have to sit here, wondering how on earth to handle a lifetime of physical isolation. Hugs cause me pain, for instance. And anything sex would cause me blinding pain. If I touch the wrong part of my torso eeven momentarily, it can make me vomit.

All the narcotics did was dull it..but it meant I could at least be happy *sometimes.* ...But no. None for me, because of other people doing bad things.

What do I do now? What..theres nothing. Theres no answer. Just that its too bad for me apparently.

Oh, i’m 26 by the way.

This feels like a witch hunt, lets blame someone for all the drug abuse and overdoses that are going on in this country. Look at the dates they sky rocketed it when jobs started going over seas at alarming rates, people were losing their incomes, their homes, their feeling of worth, So they go out to find ways to dull their feelings…But those of us that live in severe pain each and everyday are the ones that are fighting tooth and nail to get help. I live with a disease called RSD/CRPS it is rated the most painful disease known, it feels like someone has pored gasoline into our veins and lit it. We cannot have a even the slightest touch of a sheet or breeze touch the effected area, try taking a shower were the water feels like knives. How about never being able to hug your loved ones? imagine that going full body. there is no cure, and pain meds is the only thing that helps some. The suicide rate is already way to high for those that have it with the meds, take that away it will increase to i am willing to bet close to 100% and you are worried about addiction of pain killers for these people? Just this past week 2 have committed suicide that i know of a young girl was one of them. There has to be a happy medium without everyone suffering.

Good Job, Propublica.  Now a several-part expose of how pharmaceutical companies use our taxpayer money to do the research, in their own businesses and through public universities, market the drugs and make reap all the profits would be welcome.  You may have done it before but their costs and profits keep growing so the articles should cause even more public outrage since republicans are trying to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Too much time has been wasted! How soon we may legalize the drug trade and make the painkillers available to the grocery stores without prescriptions?
Bad news for greedy political leaders, hereditary drug businessmen and deep pocketed border policing authorities all over the world.
Like the Netherlands, free trades of drugs will mean lesser crimes in reality.
No kidding, wake up conditioned guys and for learing about unknown things kindly visit:

Oh, goodness.

Look, the people “against drugs” (for the most part) are against their abuse.  So those of you whose lives were saved by careful and responsible application of an appropriate pharmaceutical product, would you quit it with the “but what if half there’s a tiger gnawing on your private parts, don’t you want drugs available then?” rhetoric.

The fact that a tool is useful does not mean that the tool is never abused or that the abuse should be permitted.  Guns are useful tools (even if I don’t like them, personally), but shooting people isn’t something that should be done unsupervised.  Fire is an exceptionally useful tool, but it doesn’t mean you should let your house burn down.  The Internet is great, but it doesn’t mean you should never leave the house because you have access.  Got it?

With drugs, there’s illegal use, there’s doctor incompetence or negligence, and there are pharmaceutical companies trying to con both doctors and patients into taking much more of their products than is necessary.

Those of you claiming that this article represents some kind of holy war against all of medicine or your personal health, can you explain why you don’t see a difference between your situation and the doctor who blindly prescribes whatever miracle drug was being hawked by the buxom pharma rep over candlelight dinner the previous night?

In reference to Johns comment,oh goodness,maybee you should go out get run over, dragged for 5blocks, and see if you feel the same!!!!!!  where is your stats to back up pharma reps over candlelight dinner?  He who chooses to be a moron always will be…OH GOODNESS…

This problem started when the principles of cancer pain management were exported - without scrutiny - to the treatment of non-cancer pain. The terms and concepts of ‘pseudo-addiction’, ‘no ceiling’ dosage, and pain is ‘whatever the patient says it is and occurs whenever the patient says it does’ are lifted right out of the cancer nursing literature. Unfortunately, those concepts were never validated before being applied.

Those of you who follow this know that the Hurwitz trial was the tip of the iceberg. When the DEA sought public input on their opioid prescribing FAQs I suggested that they look into the disclosures of the ‘expert’ panel: Portnoy, Passik, and Joransan. It has taken a long time for these fellows to get their comeupance. It is long overdue.


May 12, 2012, 8:34 a.m.

“Pain doctors and patient groups say that while drug overdoses are a legitimate concern, only a small percentage of deaths involves patients who receive them from their doctors. Most deaths involve illicitly obtained drugs, statistics show.” This statistic tells us nothing. We need to go into the morgues, get the bodies names, and trace them back to the doctors’ offices where their addictions started. The “pain doctors” are the ones that started the addiction. These doctors script the maximums and pocket the cash. Then their patients, like all opiate users thorughout history, start developing a taste for more than the maximums and hound their “Pain doctors” for more. The “Pain doctors” kick the addicted patients out of their offices when they start showing signs of abuse and then these former patients’ corposes start showing up at the morgue after a few months or years of going to the black market for their painkillers. No one tracks where it all began and the very low artificially created number is used and touted by the pain killer industry as proof that they are not the cause of the problem. If, and I do mean “if” (because as I am typing millions of dollars are being moved into campaign funds of the committee members) Congress is able to decipher and see through these artificial numbers, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than just a warnning label to solve this deadly problem. Doctors are already required by laws in many states to fully expalin to their patients the addictive nature of oppiates and dangers from overdose, if you want to see how effective these are, go to the morgue interview one of the hundreds of thousands of corpses.

Frank Whetherford

May 12, 2012, 8:38 a.m.

-Pain doctors and patient groups say that while drug overdoses are a legitimate concern, only a small percentage of deaths involves patients who receive them from their doctors. Most deaths involve illicitly obtained drugs, statistics show.- This statistic tells us nothing. We need to go into the morgues, get the bodies names, and trace them back to the doctors’ offices where their addictions started. The “pain doctors” are the ones that started the addiction. These doctors script the maximums and pocket the cash. Then their patients, like all opiate users thorughout history, start developing a taste for more than the maximums and hound their “Pain doctors” for more. The “Pain doctors” kick the addicted patients out of their offices when they start showing signs of abuse and then these former patients’ corposes start showing up at the morgue after a few months or years of going to the black market for their painkillers. No one tracks where it all began and the very low artificially created number is used and touted by the pain killer industry as proof that they are not the cause of the problem. If, and I do mean “if” (because as I am typing millions of dollars are being moved into campaign funds of the committee members) Congress is able to decipher and see through these artificial numbers, it’s going to take a heck of a lot more than just a warnning label to solve this deadly problem. Doctors are already required by laws in many states to fully expalin to their patients the addictive nature of oppiates and dangers from overdose, if you want to see how effective these are, go to the morgue interview one of the hundreds of thousands of corpses.

Shelley Shanahan

May 12, 2012, 11:37 a.m.

Perhaps if the medical community that profits so much from the production, prescribing and sale of these painkillers put their efforts into the elimination of pain, we would not have this problem.  But they have no financial incentive to do so, because that would eliminate this financially lucrative market.  And why is there so much pain to begin with… did prior generations live in such pain?  I bet not.

OMG .. What is wrong with you people ?  I am in tears just reading these comments, mainly from Pain Patients such as myself.
This is so horrific it is SHAMEFUL ...
Most of the media ( and those that have hopped on this band-wagon of hell ) for the most part are ONLY reporting, posting incorrect & outdated statistics along with redundant to say the least
Just reading the commentaries here from fellow pain pt’s & knowing that most of us can not get relief from the every minute of every day HORROR OF PAIN ..  Due to this horrible injustice .... 

Was this not an attack on Pain Mill’s & Criminal Doctors, Dealers, Addicts, supposed get the CRIMINALS off the streets, to answer for their deceit .. crimes ? 
The disruption & negation of our PAIN PATIENTS is a result our being denied.  These are people who have been using pain medication/s without misuse or addiction for years & are in desperate need of pain relief in order to function somewhat normally each day…
It is bad enough when one person suffers due to the acts of others ... BUT we are talking, MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN PAIN,
Many of whom are no longer treated as decent human beings !  Patients of pain that need relief… To be treated with the dignity they are deserving of;  without being profiled or mistreated beyond your wildest imaginations… this is happening right here on; Our American Soil .. “The Land of the Free” !!!
We are indignant as a result of the way we have been & are being treated,
what we must go through in trying to obtain our LEGAL prescription .. THIS IS PURE HELL …
BEFORE THIS WAR BEGAN it was already absolute agony to live with debilitating illnesses & pain.
NOW, We can’t even get our medicine prescription filled @ a Pharmacy to enable us to cope & function …
to live a somewhat ’normal type’ life.  “Innocent Americans” have been VICTIMIZED by our own Government … THIS MUST STOP !!

The reformulation of med’s that used to work great are no longer helping those most in need but rather are produce horrific side effects instead of quelling the pain … ANOTHER CASUALTY of this war !  There are far too many to list … 

do not know what they speak of, only parroting what is released in the media.
Next time they read another media blitz on this war … they just spew some more….
They ARE NOT on the other side of the fence and have no idea of the needless suffering going on.

Even Innocent Doctors are closing their doors due to the fear of prosecution by the DEA because…  You see, even if they are innocent they still are labeled, typically costing them hundred’s of thousands just to prove their innocence, legal fees, court rooms, the stigmatization alone typically ends their Careers they worked years to obtain …



To “John, Oh goodness!” and to all you hateful people out there!  I am in too much pain to even say what I want/need to say to you.  How DARE YOU, SIR!!!!  How dare you?  I pray you grow a heart and an understanding that people are dying right now because they are in so much pain that they cannot bear to live anymore.  Why?  Because of organizations like Propublica and the DEA who in their hysteria over the actions of illegal drug abusers have now made it impossible for people to get their legal pain prescriptions.  You need to get current on what is happening RIGHT NOW!  The pendulum has shifted and now you are attacking regular old citizens who just happen to have pain as there malady.  God help you if you ever should become in chronic pain.  May God help you all.

I agree with Jeanne Hyatt.  She says it best.  ProPublica has teamed up with NBC and we all know that GE has a controlling interest in NBC so now ProPublica isn’t going report on the evil ways of GE.  GE by the way is the manufacturer of Omniscan and GE is counting on the mortality of patients with gadolinium-induced systemic fibroisis by holding up their settlements and playing every trick in the book to keep from paying out.  They are so corrupt they funded the diagnostic guidelines, now you have to be almost dead to get a diagnosis.  This is a very painful disease so is this what it’s about ProPublica?  Your reporting has gone down hill since you started playing water boy for GE and it’s affiliates. 

This is the doctor GE tried to silence.  What are you getting out of this ProPublica?

e theVery few people are contending there is not a legitimate use for pain medications.  Those who are in chronic pain deserve treatment and our compassion, end of story.  What people are saying is that there is an inherent conflict of interest in patient advocacy organizations being bankrolled by those who stand to profit.  This is not limited to pain treatment, but happens over and over where pharma is involved.  Consider:

CHADD - and alleged advocacy organization for parents of children with ADHD bankrolled by the stimulant manufacturers (Lilly, Shire, and the rest)

NAMI - a mental health organization bankrolled by psychotropic drug manufacturers.  TeenScreen is another “mental health” organization with deep pharma ties.

Sounds of pertussis - a public health advocacy organization pushing for vaccine mandates bankrolled by Sanofi- Pasteur, the maker of the largely ineffective Tdap pertussis vaccine

Now we see that the opiate manufacturers are those behind the pain management advocacy organizations.  Nobody is arguing pain management isn’t a real need, but why must these organizations continually intertwine themselves with pharma?  Assuming these organizations aren’t pharma fronts, they would have far more credibility if they found other ways to fund their “outreach”.

Jeff C, then go after the other criminal behavior first.  Opiates are already a political issue.  All other pain meds are useless and toxic and these reporters have gone after the low hanging fruit and in the process are hurting patients that need these basically non-toxic meds to function.  Why not go after vaccinations?  They are harming our children and ruining families years after year.  Why, because ProPublica is chicken.  They don’t dare expose the vaccine cash cow of pharma or GE and their toxic product Omniscan because if they did vaccination injury would stop and GE wouldn’t be able to sell their expensive MRI equipment.  ProPublica sickens me.  I don’t come here much anymore ....others are doing better reporting and not hiding out behind an easy target like taking pain meds away from patients that need it.  Disgusting, that’s all I can say.

GE’s product Omniscan is toxic causing cancer and yet they still recommend that women with a BRCA mutation get annual MRIs. Why don’t you report on something useful and leave those in pain alone.

I find it interesting that I had at least two people attack me directly as some sort of…I don’t know, mass murderer? for the “sin” of being against the abuse of drugs.

Can one of you—rather than calling me names and wishing me harm—explain how wanting to stop doctors from OVER-using drugs to people who don’t need them in ANY way implies that I am against the use of drugs by people who do need them?

I’m trying to take your position seriously, but from what you’re saying, it sounds like many of you believe that anybody who is against doing harm to people should have bones crushed until they agree.

The world isn’t made up exclusively of extremists and binary options.  It is, as I suggested before, entirely possible to find fire a useful tool without objecting to the arrest of an arsonist.  Some of us might even find such a stance reasonable.


Pain meds aren’t causing brain damage like vaccinations.  Pain meds aren’t causing cancer like with CT scans.  Pain meds aren’t destroying our economy like the banks.  Pain meds aren’t causing birth defects like Monsanto’s product RoundUp Ready.  There are so many things that need to be handled but taking pain meds away from those that need it is not one of them and that is what ProPublica is doing by reporting on a non-issue while leaving the hard issues unreported.

I can see clearly tonight why it’s impossible to get anything done.  Nobody here is denying that there is probably abuse in the system but instead points fingers elsewhere and says, “What about those lawbreakers?  Go after them and leave us opiate users alone!”  Sheesh!  Is every Propublica reader suffering from chronic pain?

Also, good on you John for your moderate post.  I just wanna back you up and say I agree with you.  Let the Senators look into it, poke around and see if anything falls out.  I have my doubts that it will accomplish anything, but perhaps this will be different.  I doubt Max Baucus is overly motivated by the elections (to the commenter who suggested such).  He’s my senator and there’s no way he’ll be defeated any time soon.  Way too senior.

I’m sorry for all of you who are in chronic pain but maybe you should hold off on the ad hominem attacks.

This is a confusing story that mixes various statistics; a doctor’s general view of things; PP’s unsupported assertion that the PF’s guides were misinformative; PP’s pointless but insinuating question about the timing of the letters and the dissolution of the PF; and senators stating not facts but alleged facts in advance of their investigation.

You’ve got two stories here, not one: (1) the PF’s activities and the charges against it; and (2) the advent of the Finance Committee investigation. That the PF is one of the named parties doesn’t make the stories one.

The material would have been presented more clearly by reporting as two stories, not one.

I’ve read this article and then read through the comments.  It must be splendid for some people to live their lives in a relatively pain-free state. Makes it so much easier to judge others and feel superior.  Unless you are dealing with chronic severe pain every single day of your life, you have no real frame of reference for what it is like.  Chronic, continued pain is responsible for a MUCH higher risk of suicide than the percentage of accidental overdoses.  Chronic pain destroys families, ruins all quality of life, and causes other huge health risks such as high blood pressure and stroke.  Pain medications used properly, even over a long period of time, result in very few cases of actual drug addiction.  So before you throw Tylenol from your glass houses, maybe you should drop to your knees and thank whatever Gods that be, because but for the grace of God go you.  And you need to pray you NEVER know what it is like.

Doctors receive a kick back for promoting the use of these drugs.  Until there is a law that comes down hard and heavy on these physicians it will continue.
It only takes a matter of a week or less with Oxycontin even if you take the drug as prescribed of making an individual addicted. So the statement if taken as prescribed is not accurate. 
There needs to be a hotline where individuals can report these physicians that hand pain medication out like candy and push surgical procedures that they know very well will not help the majority of patients.  Then once reported, then there needs to be a group of people pretending to have symptoms and much like prostitute , sit them up for the fall.  For these physicians and pharmaceuticals are ruining many lives.  They need to have their license yanked and fined heavily instead of the slap on the wrist that they do receive.
You might want to go as far as sitting up a reward program for those turning in these physicians and pharmaceuticals.

C.F. is being somewhat rude in comments, instead should promote the idea of making all kinds of painkillers available over-the-counter like Tylenol, guns etc. it’s the criminal minds, not the drags that commit crimes.
When the global streets will be free of guns, weapon makers, sellers and buyers of all kind of accessories of crimes; the world will become a safer place.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Dollars for Doctors

Dollars for Doctors: How Industry Money Reaches Physicians

ProPublica is tracking the financial ties between doctors and medical companies.

The Story So Far

ProPublica is investigating the financial ties between the medical community and the drug and device industry. In October 2010, ProPublica compiled the list of payments that drug companies make to physicians and built a publicly searchable database so that patients could look up their doctors.

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