After Groundbreaking Report Showing Millions in Payments Between Opioid Manufacturers & Third Party Advocacy Groups, McCaskill Introduces Bill Requiring Additional Transparency

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today released legislation as a result of her wide-ranging investigation exposing the financial ties between opioid manufacturers and third party advocacy groups. The Patient Advocacy Transparency Act would require transparency regarding payments from pharmaceutical manufacturers to patient advocacy groups, professional societies, and other groups by applying existing reporting requirements under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act to contributions to these organizations.

The report detailed contributions from leading opioid manufacturers of nearly $9 million to 14 third party advocacy organizations over a five year period.

“Opioid manufacturers have a legal right to donate to third party organizations who can then advocate for policies friendly to the industry—but I believe the public also has a right to know that those financial relationships exist, and right now that’s not what’s happening,” McCaskill said. “We required increased transparency when it came to payments to individual doctors, and we should extend that visibility to these groups as well.”

A letter of support for the legislation was signed by 20 groups and more than 80 individual national leaders dedicated to increased transparency and medical advocacy, including Public Citizen, PharmedOut, and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. The Project on Government Oversight and Patients for Affordable Drugs have endorsed the legislation as well. “It is vital for consumers, journalists, researchers, and policymakers to know which pharmaceutical companies support which groups – and how much money they give,” the groups wrote. “This legislation will provide the public with a powerful tool to ensure that advocacy groups and professional associations serve the public interest.”

In 2016, approximately 115 people in the United States died every day from an opioid-related drug overdose, amounting to over 42,000 fatalities in a single year.

McCaskill is currently leading the largest Congressional investigation to-date into opioid manufacturers and distributors. She launched the investigation last year, requesting documents from opioid manufacturers and distributors. In September 2017, McCaskill announced the first round of findings, detailing systemic manipulation of the prior authorization process by Insys Therapeutics. McCaskill’s latest report, issued earlier this year, describes how manufacturers of opioids have made significant financial investments into third party organizations—groups which in turn have often engaged in pro-opioid advocacy. 

Read a copy of McCaskill’s legislation online HERE.