Should drug company charity contributions be more transparent to combat opioid epidemic?

March 16, 2021

Pharmaceutical companies have given millions to charity organizations since 1997, which seems great.

However, a probe of the opioid crisis has found that connections between drug manufacturers and tax-exempt groups have actually boosted sales of prescription drugs while down-playing addiction risks.

That’s why two U.S. senators want these charity payments disclosed publicly.

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, have called for an expansion of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Open Payments database. Currently, the database includes payments from Big Pharma to doctors and other medical providers, but the two senators want to add payments to tax-exempt groups as well.

Their inquiry into the opioid crisis found that since 1997 opioid manufacturers paid $65 million to organizations including the American Chronic Pain Association and Americans for Patient Access. These organizations have appeared to “have echoed and amplified the business interests of their pharmaceutical donors,” the senators found.

Do you think payments from big drug companies to tax-exempt charities have fueled opioid overdoses? Share your thoughts if you believe more transparency for these payments is needed.