Senate Probes Painkiller Makers' Financial Ties

The U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee will probe the financial ties that exist between the manufacturers of prescription painkillers and patient advocacy groups, pain experts, and groups that determine the rules on how physicians use the medications.

A letter signed by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the committee’s chairman, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the investigation is meant to ensure that patients and doctors are receiving correct and unbiased information from painkiller makers about the risks and benefits of their drugs, according to The New York Times.

The letter was sent to makers of prescription painkillers as well as several pain specialists and patient advocacy groups.

The Senate inquiry comes amid an epidemic of narcotic painkiller overdoses and growing concern about the risks patients face by taking these drugs over extended periods of time or at high doses.

Narcotic painkillers, or opiods, are the most commonly prescribed class of drugs in the nation, according to The Times. In the last 10 years, the number of prescriptions written annually for the medications - including Vicodin, OxyContin, methadone, and fentanyl - has increased fourfold.

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