By Matthew Perrone
AP Health Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – Nearly a third of the members on a government panel that made headlines by calling an effort to curb overprescribing of OxyContin and other painkillers “horrible,” have drug-industry ties.

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee is a government advisory panel of federal scientists, outside academics and patient representatives. Of the 18 committee members at a recent meeting to discuss government handling of pain issues, at least five had financial connections to painkiller manufacturers.

One, a pain specialist from Duke University, has received thousands of dollars in payments from drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, which sells generic painkillers. Another, a patient advocate, holds a nonprofit position created by a $1.5 million donation by Purdue.

The revelation comes after the committee last month bashed a federal plan to recommend doctors scale back on prescribing painkillers for chronic pain. The guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are intended to curb deadly overdoses tied to highly-addictive opioid drugs, including Percocet and Vicodin.

At the time, various committee members called the proposal “ridiculous,” ”horrible,” and “shortsighted.” A week later, the CDC said it would seek more public input on its guidelines – which were largely written behind closed doors.

The apparent conflicts of interest on the panel underscore the pervasive reach of pharmaceutical-industry dollars, even among federal advisers who are supposed to be carefully vetted for such connections before serving. Financial payments from drugmakers have been shown to shape doctors’ medical decisions and researchers’ conclusions. Concerns about that influence led the federal government to begin posting drug-industry payments to doctors in 2014.

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