US bioethics centre queried about ties to drug industry

The US Senate's Finance Committee has asked seven organisations, including the well-known Center for Practical Bioethics, in Kansas City, for information about financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. This inquiry is part of the committee's investigation of links between manufacturers, doctors and organisations which have advocated increased use of narcotic painkillers. 

The Committee claims that the US is suffering from "an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction resulting from the increased sale and use of powerful narcotic painkillers" and that opioid-based prescription painkillers kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. It is concerned about "extensive ties between companies that manufacture and market opioids and non-profit organisations".

The Centre for Practical Bioethics also received a letter demanding information about financial ties because Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin and other pain drugs, is a substantial donor. Myra Christopher, its founder and former president, is an outspoken advocate of pain relief, especially in palliative care. She has always insisted that funds came with no strings attached. The Center says that it will cooperate fully in the investigation. 

Because the American Journal of Bioethics is linked to the Center through Glen McGee, the founding editor of AJOB and a former ethicist at the Center, some bioethicists have alleged that AJOB will be drawn into the investigation. AJOB has vigorously denied this. "No financial relationship exists or ever existed between AJOB and Purdue Pharmaceuticals or any pharmaceutical company.  AJOB received no financial support from the Center for Practical Bioethics," it says on its blog

This article is published by Michael Cook and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

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