American Pain Society Officially Shuttered

Damian McNamara

July 02, 2019

It's official — the American Pain Society (APS) is no longer. A much-anticipated decision by its board to proceed with Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection has shuttered the doors of the society, which has promoted multidisciplinary research and clinical care in pain diagnosis and management since 1978.

The APS believes it is another victim of the opioid crisis after being "named a defendant in numerous spurious lawsuits related to opioids prescribing and abuse," the APS Board of Directors announced in a news release.

The organization's financial health has deteriorated because of the litigation. In addition, APS has experienced membership decline, decreased sponsorship revenues, and lower meeting attendance.

APS President William Maixner, DDS, PhD, described the convergence of these factors as "the perfect storm" the society could no longer navigate.

"Our 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," he said.

The society had tried unsuccessfully to resolve the lawsuits "without anticipated lengthy and expensive litigation," added Maixner, the Joannes H. Karis, MD professor of anesthesiology and vice chair of research, Department of Anesthesiology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

"There is a sad irony that the professional organization best poised to provide the spectrum of science to improve the prevention and treatment of pain and related substance abuse is defunct," APS President-Elect Gary Walco, PhD, director of pain medicine, Seattle Children's Hospital, also notes in the statement.

"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 short-sighted and far from sufficient," he said.

A final decision on the society's fate was imminent following a May 20, 2019, letter the APS board sent to its membership. As reported by Medscape Medical News at that time, the letter outlined the society's struggles with current and future lawsuits.

Interestingly, the APS is not the first casualty among pain societies facing these challenges. At the end of January, the Academy of Integrative Pain Medicine (AIPM) shuttered its doors, also citing dwindling industry support and opioid-related litigation.

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