Members of the American Pain Society are voting this week whether to file for bankruptcy and dissolve the organization, a fallout of the ongoing fight to end the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“It is with heavy hearts that we write to inform you that it is the recommendation of the Board of Directors that [the] American Pain Society (APS) cease its business operations,” the society said in an email to its membership. At least 10% of the society’s near-1,200 members must vote in favor of the recommendation by May 29 for the motion to pass.

The reason? APS has been named as a defendant in several lawsuits that also name opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies alleging they misled doctors about the addictive nature of the drugs, leading to tens of thousands of overdose deaths and economic damages to communities across the country.

If the board’s recommendation passes, APS will file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, dissolve its status, and provide an independent trustee to dispose of its assets. The organization will also do away with or hand off to other organizations its monthly Journal of Pain, several research grants, a young investors fund, and its annual scientific meeting.

Earlier this month, APS was singled out in a report by U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, “Corrupting Influence: Purdue & the WHO.” (Purdue Pharmaceuticals is the drug company that brought OxyContin to the market and has been heavily criticized for its aggressive marketing to push sales while downplaying the risks for addiction, dependency and overdose.)

“The American Pain Society and its global arm, the International Association for the Study of Pain, promote opioid use, especially for chronic, non-cancer pain,” the report stated. It also noted that James Campbell, a former APS president and board chairman, is “credited with first saying pain should be treated as ‘the fifth vital sign,’ which became a key component of opioid manufacturer-funded promotional materials encouraging higher prescription rates.”

The society allegedly pocketed nearly $1 million from opioid makers from 2012 and 2017, another Congressional report claimed.

Supporters of the organization say that the group used its money not to push opioid sales, but to advocate for appropriate access to patients suffering with pain, as well as advocate for access to non-drug treatments, like acupuncture and massage therapy, and chiropractic treatments.

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