A

company that sells a new opioid-addiction medication is a secret funder of an advocacy group fronted by Newt Gingrich and Patrick Kennedy that is pushing for more government funding and insurance coverage of such treatments.

Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker and a Trump confidant, and Kennedy, a former congressman and son of former US Senator Edward Kennedy, are paid advisors to Advocates for Opioid Recovery. They have generated a flurry of media attention in those roles, including joint interviews with outlets ranging from Fox News to the New Yorker.

Gingrich told STAT this week he didn’t know who was funding Advocates for Opioid Recovery, and the nonprofit group’s officials refused to disclose its financial backers.

advertisement

The answer, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, is Braeburn Pharmaceuticals Inc. The private company, based in Princeton, N.J., won approval last year to market an implant that continuously dispenses the opioid addiction medicine buprenorphine.

In a prospectus filed with the SEC in late January as part of a now-postponed effort to take the company public, Braeburn disclosed it entered into an agreement to make a $900,000 charitable donation to Advocates for Opioid Recovery. The filing indicates the company had paid $675,000 to the nonprofit group as of Sept. 30. It did not specify when the remaining funds would be paid.

The filing indicates Braeburn entered into the agreement to fund the nonprofit group through the private equity fund that owns the drugmaker.

That fund, called Apple Tree Partners, is also an investor in CleanSlate Addiction Treatment Centers. Kennedy has been a member of the board of directors of CleanSlate since 2015. The treatment center is also a sponsor of the Kennedy Forum, a mental health advocacy outfit headed by Patrick Kennedy.

Anne Woodbury, a former Gingrich aide who serves as executive director of Advocates for Opioid Recovery, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A request for comment from Braeburn was also not immediately returned.

Kennedy declined to be interviewed this week, as did Van Jones, the CNN commentator and former Obama aide who is another paid adviser. Earlier this week, Woodbury and a spokesman for the nonprofit refused to say who was funding it, adding that the donors wanted to remain anonymous.

While there is widespread support in the treatment community for use of the medicines being promoted by the three men, there is growing concern about misuse of the drugs. And some addiction experts have expressed skepticism that the Braeburn implant will be an effective treatment option. There are alternative opioid-addiction treatments that do not rely on medication, including abstinence-based and behavioral therapy programs.

Last month, Braeburn shelved a planned initial public offering, citing poor market conditions. The company’s implant drug, branded as Probuphine, relies on four tiny rods implanted under the skin of the upper arm to dispense the addiction-treatment drug buprenorphine for six months at a time.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • Less pharmaceuticals, more pharmaceuticals- whichever way, your ‘system’ of health insurance (rest of world doesn’t waste money on) and lobbyists is a murderous pointless game and you make us all play it! The unprecedented greed of Gilead, Merck etc with the new hepatitis C meds, has been successful this way too- anonymously funding advocate groups to take insurers to court and pay their extortionate prices. 5 million people have died while the cure exists- they are far more dangerous even than your military- and profit records smashed. Enough! I, and 1000’s of other,s saving our own lives importing generic hep C medication through buyers clubs like fixhepc and humanitarians like Greag Jefferys. Is legal, identical, fraction of price, please share- someone did and it saved my life. Ask or look it up.

  • I read with interest the statement: “And some addiction experts have expressed skepticism that the Braeburn implant will be an effective treatment option.” It was puzzling because implants or injectables eliminate the risk of diversion or accidental ingestion, ensure patient compliance and have shown to have a statistically significant benefit on the relapse rate over sublingual forms of buprenorphine.

    I believe the answer comes from Statnews shoddy reporting. Statnews published an article on probuphine in May of 2016 written by Rebecca Robbins, and quoted Dr. Carl “Rolly” Sullivan of West Virginia University with the following: “ ‘I just don’t see how this is going to help fight the opioid epidemic at all,’ said Dr. Carl “Rolly” Sullivan, director of addiction services at West Virginia University Medicine, in a region hard-hit by the opioid crisis.”

    This is the same Dr. Sullivan is a paid consultant for suboxone, a popular sublingual form of buprenorphine. The New York Times, when quoting him, saw fit to mention he had given over 75 talks on suboxone for $500 per “talk.”

    Fair enough that Braeburn is engaging lobbyists. But is Suboxone is using statnews free of charge?

  • Ginrich in my opinion is like a floater. You think its gone but then oh oh here it is drifting back in the afterflow of the flush. Unwanted and annoying.

  • jmo,,thank u for exposing more of our torture’s who think they have a rite to practice medicine w/out a liscence,,and a rite to willfully torture the physical ill w/painful medical conditions,,,jmo,,,maryw

  • Hmm … I have to wonder why the mainstream media has not picked this story up. Could it be that it doesn’t fit in with their usual propaganda of those “scary, evil prescription opioids?” Ironic they’ll pick up stories about pharm co that manufacture prescription opioids doing this same exact thing. (Purdue Pharm, anyone?)

    The sad thing is so many people continue to keep their heads in the sand when it comes to how many chronic pain patients who were once stable and functioning to the best of their ability on prescription opioids are being cut down or completely cut off through no fault of their own. This “war” on prescription opioids is hurting real people in real pain. Even more, it’s forcing some to take their own lives as they can no longer stand to live in severe pain. This isn’t just hurting those in pain but also harming their loved ones.

    Alcohol contributes to over 100,000 deaths while tobacco contributes to over 480,000 deaths each year in this country. Two legal substances with no medicinal value contributing to almost 600,000 deaths each year in this country and all we hear are *crickets.* Where’s the outrage for those 580,000 deaths? Where’s all the calls for even more restrictive regulations or outright bans for these two substances? Where’s all the elected bureaucrats trying to push bills that further restrict these two substances? The government wouldn’t dare further restrict or ban these two substances, as they are excellent forms of revenue for local, state and federal government(s).

    People, wake up and tell bureaucrats to get their noses out of your doctor’s office! One of these days it very well could be you needing medicinal pain control (stronger than mmj, which can help some in pain) in the form of a prescription opioid. That prescription opioid may mean the difference of some quality to your life as opposed to no quality to your life. Your future of severe pain is now in our elected bureaucrats’ hands. These are the same bureaucrats that have no license to practice medicine and have no idea to the amount of suffering you may be forced to endure.

    • I totally agree with you. I will never forget how a doctor made me feel when I needed vicoden for chronic pelvic pain. The pain lasted a year and a half before my hysterectomy performed by this same doctor. He was with a different insurance than the Dr who first prescribed the vicoden. I would cry at my appointments bcuz the pain was unbearable…. he told me to stop crying as that wasn’t going to work on him. I only needed a refill enough to cover the days before my surgery…FOUR days. A half hour before my surgery he told me to have the integrity to stop using vicoden afterwards, he didn’t want to see me in his department again…ob/gyn.. as he would see to it that none of his colleagues would prescribe any vicoden for me, he wrote in my medical records that I displayed drug seeking behavior and he also entered my name into a statewide data base of users of opiod based pain pills.

      The term gaslighting comes to mind…..he insisted so many times that I was addicted that I started questioning myself…”Am I addicted??”. I even looked up drug rehab programs before surgery. The pain went away after the hysterectomy. I had a great PCP who told me how to wean off vicoden in less than three months. I didn’t experience any withdrawals after completely stopping, I didn’t crave them, I didn’t need them, I didn’t miss them, I forgot all about them and went back to living my normal life. That was in 2012 and I haven’t had a pain so bad I needed vicoden since then. Not the usual behavior of an opiod addict….is it? It isn’t… bcuz I have never had an addictive personality. My doctor refused to believe me so instead he made me feel like a drug addict trying to force him to prescribe more. I so badly wanted to see him again and tell him he was wrong about me and I didn’t need a speech from him about my integrity!

      I hear about a lot of women with pelvic pain who are treated like drug adducts all over the country. I wish these doctors could be forced to feel the same pain as their patients….perhaps by being stabbed in the stomach bcuz that’s exactly how it feels…and then refuse them any relief with an opiod pain killer.

      I was told by one of his nurses that she never uses anything for pain…only natural remedies…bcuz that’s healthier. My response….Gee, I sure hope you never get cancer.

      Yes….the government is now in charge of our pain. They tell us what we can use and how long we can use it. Because they somehow magically know what kind of pain we each have and how we each tolerate that pain. If they say we can endure the pain with no help…we are forced to do just that.

Recommended Stories

Sign up for our
Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine — delivered straight to your inbox every weekday afternoon.