March 5, 2017; Boston Globe
Last week, NPQ covered a research study that showed that eight out of ten patient advocacy groups were funded by pharmaceutical companies, raising questions of conflict of interest in that those advocacy groups both lobby (purportedly on behalf of the patients) and recommend treatments. Now, the Boston Globe has revealed that Advocates for Opioid Recovery, a new advocacy group which includes as paid spokespeople former congressmen Newt Gingrich and Patrick Kennedy, is being secretly backed by a drug company that is pushing for more government funding and insurance coverage of the kinds of treatments that company produces. This turn of events may be enormously disappointing for the mental health and substance abuse advocacy communities who depended upon Kennedy in part to carry an advocacy leadership position in the bipartisan campaign for mental health insurance parity.
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In the past, Gingrich denied knowing who funded Advocates for Opioid Recovery, and the nonprofit refused to disclose its funders. But new documents filed with the SEC show that the funder is Braeburn Pharmaceuticals. In those documents, Braeburn disclosed a $900,000 charitable pledge to Advocates for Opioid Recovery, making the donation through the private equity fund that owns Braeburn. That same fund invests in CleanSlate Addiction Treatment Centers, where Kennedy is a board member.
Reporter David Armstrong writes, “While there is widespread support in the treatment community for use of the medicines being promoted…there is growing concern about misuse of the drugs.” This, of course, is exactly why such relationships are a danger to public safety, especially when they are secret.—Ruth McCambridge