The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), which advised the White House and Congress on responding to the opioid crisis, accepted $19 million in donations from members of the Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, The New York Times reports.
NASEM has not conducted a public review to determine if the Sackler donations influenced its policymaking, despite issuing two major reports that influenced national opioid policy, the article notes.
One of those reports, released in 2011 and now largely discredited, claimed that 100 million Americans suffered from chronic pain, an estimate that proved to be highly inflated. It gave pharmaceutical companies a talking point for aggressive sales campaigns, primed doctors to prescribe opioids at an accelerating rate and influenced the Food and Drug Administration to approve at least one highly potent opioid.
In 2016, months after NASEM received a $10 million Sackler donation, the FDA asked the institution to form a committee to issue new recommendations on opioids. One senator took exception to some of the members selected, complaining they had ties to opioid makers. Before work began, four people were removed from the panel.
NASEM says the Sackler donations were never used to support any advisory activities on the use of opioids or on efforts to counter the opioid crisis, and that NASEM had been prevented from returning the Sackler money because of legal restrictions.