The American Pain Society is in a World of Hurt

The American Pain Society (APS) announced it is ceasing operations on Friday after responding to multiple lawsuits claiming its policies contributed to the opioid crisis. The group has been “named a defendant in numerous spurious lawsuits related to opioid prescribing and abuse. The organization’s financial health has deteriorated as a result of the litigation” and “resources are being diverted to paying staff to comply with subpoenas and other requests for information and for payment of legal fees instead of funding research grants, sponsoring pain education programs, and public policy advocacy,” APS President William Maixner, DDS, PhD, said. 

Since the APS has benefited from significant financial support from the opioid manufacturers for years, the APS has been accused of acting as “front groups” for these manufacturers, creating a reasonable argument of culpability.  Several of the former and present leaders of the APS have voiced their concerns that this is a critical time in American history when groups such as the APS are needed to advocate for research and to fight the opioid crisis. APS President-elect Gary Walco, PhD, noted that a “professional organization best poised to provide the spectrum of science to improve the prevention and treatment of pain and related substance abuse.”

Roger Fillingim, PhD, an APS past president and professor of psychology, University of Florida School of Dentistry, said the “APS has been advocating for increased investment in research for many years, and it is particularly ironic that APS’s voice will go silent at this critical time in our history, when increased investment in pain research has finally become a reality in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.”

APS President-elect Gary Walco, PhD, also noted the irony that a “professional organization best poised to provide the spectrum of science to improve the prevention and treatment of pain and related substance abuse is defunct.” He spoke further stating, “Now, more than ever, our nation needs the collective efforts of leading scientists and clinicians who hold patients’ well-being at the highest premium. The principal focus on punishing those in industry that may have contributed to the problem is shortsighted and far from sufficient.”

I don’t know, holding those responsible for participating in and benefiting from a nationwide scam and cover-up of the known risks associated with opioid pain medications doesn’t sound all that shortsighted. Who’s next on the hit list? It should never include those of us simply trying to address our patients’ pain.

Cynthia R Stuart DO

Dr. Stuart is Board Certified in Family Medicine. Originally from Georgia, she spent most of her youth in Miami, Florida and has been a Texas resident since the early 1990s. She attended UNTHSC-Fort Worth and completed her residency at UTSW/Methodist Hospital System where she was Chief Resident in her senior year. She is an Associate Professor at UTSW and UNTHSC, participating as a preceptor for medical students and residents. She completed a two-year course at SMU Cox School of Business in Advanced Leadership that enables her to advocate for quality health care providers and local public health programs in her community. She is the head of the Credentials Committee, sits on the Medical Executive Committee and the Ethics Committee at Baylor Scott and White Hospital of Carrollton. She has appeared on numerous news and radio programs to educate the public about various health topics. Dr. Stuart has managed her private practice in Carrollton since 2005 and is now a Direct Primary Care Physician. 

  6 comments for “The American Pain Society is in a World of Hurt

  1. Tim Blain, MD
    July 2, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Until all medical professional societies stop accepting millions of dollars from Pharma under the guise of education, charitable donation, scholarships, advertising in the societies journal, etc., we will be on the hook for all medical scandals and we should be. I have always been somewhat skeptical about many of the medical guidelines that no longer are really guidelines but instead considered “standards of care” on how I should treat my patients is without doubt under significant “influence” from Pharma and we all know it.

  2. Thomas David Guastavino
    July 2, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Do not forget, of the main players most culpable in the opioid crisis, including the APS, Purdue phrama, JCAHO, CMS and whoever pushed patient elevation scores, the first two could not force us to change our prescribing habits but the last three could so they are mostly to blame. I would have ignored the APS and Purdue could detail me all they wanted but I still would have said they were nuts and ignored them.

  3. Randy
    July 2, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    If the APC was fronting for drug companies then by all means sue them. It does bug me that the government’s and regulatory bodies own role in this is so frequently forgotten, as I think stuart is alluding to.

    Since the emphasis on the opioid crisis there has been a tendency to undertreat pain, so hopefully another organization can step in to advocate for those patients in pain.

  4. Chris Garofalo
    July 2, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    I don’t know anything about the APS but the fact that not 1 person mentioned in the article is a physician is quite telling and I submit gives a clue as to why it finds itself in its current predicament.

  5. Pat
    July 2, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    The federal government was complicit in the opioid “crisis,” and is now punishing those dealing with the results. It offends the hell out of me that the state of Florida REQUIRES me to check the state database every time I write a script for a controlled substance, no matter what type or how small the amount.

    And last week the CDC released another statement to “clarify” guidelines on opioid prescribing, saying doctors had overreacted and should use their clinical judgment, so that those who really need pain control won’t be cut off. What a laugh. Do ya think that latest will protect you from a lawsuit, or your state board of medicine? Hahahahahaha….
    The State does not trust physicians, and intends to hold us accountable for all patient misbehavior. There should be no drug laws, and this idiotic War on Drugs should be halted. I’ll trust in acute Darwinism to reduce demand.

    In the interim, my clinical judgment means zip squat. I just shrug, tell the patient “That’s all I’m allowed to write,” and move on to the next one.

  6. stuart
    July 2, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Great news.

    Let’s hope the JC is next.

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