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May 09, 2012

Health Nonprofit Closes as Senators Investigate Drug-Company Ties

As a Senate committee opened an investigation Tuesday into links between pharmaceutical companies and advocacy groups for pain patients, the nation's largest such organization announced that it is ceasing operations, ProPublica writes.

In a statement on its Web site, the American Pain Foundation said its board had voted last week to dissolve the organization effective immediately "due to irreparable economic circumstances."

The foundation was one of five nonprofit pain groups that received letters from Senate Finance Committee leaders Max Baucus of Montana and Charles Grassley of Iowa earlier Tuesday. Their letter seeks information on drug firms' promotion of narcotic painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, which the senators blamed for "an epidemic of accidental deaths and addiction."

According to ProPublica, the foundation, which in 2010 received 90 percent of its support from makers of drugs and medical devices, has issued guides that play down the risks of such opioid painkillers. The organization did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

See a Chronicle article on Sen. Grassley's inquiry into the influence of corporate cash on doctors, academic researchers, and others who offer medical advice to the public.