The new pain management training from the American Medical Association comes in the midst of a growing crisis. It was September 2007, and doctors were prescribing enough opioid medicines per year for every adult in the United States to have a bottle. Overdoses were at an all-time high, with no indications of abating. Purdue Pharma executives had pled guilty to felony charges just four months prior for deceiving regulators and physicians about the hazards of OxyContin.
In light of this news, one might expect the American Medical Association (AMA), a prominent institution dedicated to “the art and science of medicine and the benefit of public health,” to highlight the situation in its newly updated continuing education course on how to treat pain. The 12-module training, on the other hand, revealed that doctors were still hesitant to prescribe drugs.
Thousands of doctors enrolled in the course, which was first issued in 2003 and was updated on a regular basis throughout the next decade. I recently requested Dr. Roneet Lev, the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s chief medical officer from 2018 to 2020, to have a look at the courses. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though: The American Medical Association-branded course materials show that the production and delivery of the training was made possible by a Purdue Pharma educational funding. Purdue Pharma’s role in sowing the seeds of the overdose disaster has been documented in history books, HBO specials, and a slew of lawsuits.