Vance’s anti-drug charity has recruited a doctor echoing Big Pharma

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — When JD Vance founded “Our Ohio Renewal” a day after the 2016 presidential election, he promoted the charity as a way to help solve the scourge of opioid addiction which he had lamented in “Hillbilly Elegy”, his best-selling memoir.

But Vance shut down the nonprofit last year and his foundation in May, shortly after winning the state’s Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, according to state records reviewed by The Associated. Press. A…

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — When JD Vance founded “Our Ohio Renewal” a day after the 2016 presidential election, he promoted the charity as a way to help solve the scourge of opioid addiction which he had lamented in “Hillbilly Elegy”, his best-selling memoir.

But Vance shut down the nonprofit last year and his foundation in May, shortly after winning the state’s Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, according to state records reviewed by The Associated. Press. An AP review found that the charity’s most notable achievement – sending an addiction specialist to Ohio’s Appalachian region for a year-long residency – was tainted links between the doctor, the institute that employed him and Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin.

The mothballing of Our Ohio Renewal and its lack of tangible success raises questions about Vance’s management of the organization. His decision to hire Dr. Sally Satel is under particular scrutiny. She is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute whose writings questioning the role of prescription painkillers in the national opioid crisis appeared in The New York Times and elsewhere before she began residency at the fall 2018.

Documents and emails obtained by ProPublica for a 2019 investigation revealed that Satel, a senior researcher at AEI, sometimes cited Purdue-funded studies and doctors in her addiction articles for major news outlets and shared sometimes advance drafts of articles with Purdue officials. including on some occasions in 2004 and 2016. Over the years, according to the report, AEI has received regular donations of $50,000 and other financial support from Purdue totaling $800,000.

Longtime Ohio political watcher Herb Asher called the charity’s shortcomings, including Satel’s ties to Big Pharma, “a betrayal”.

“A person forms a charity presumably to do good things, so when that’s not the case, for whatever reason, it’s really betrayal,” said Asher, professor emeritus of political science at the Ohio State University. “It’s something voters can relate to.”

Vance’s campaign said the nonprofit is simply on temporary suspension during Vance’s Senate race against Democratic U.S. Representative Tim Ryan. He also said Vance was unaware of Satel’s connection to Purdue when she was selected for the residency.

“JD didn’t know it at the time, but remains proud of his work to treat patients, especially those in an area of ​​Ohio who needed it the most,” the campaign said in a statement.

In an email to the AP this week, Satel said she “never consulted” or “took a dime from Purdue” and was unaware that Purdue had donated money to the AEI because the institute maintains a firewall between its researchers. and donors. She said she relied “entirely on my own experience as a psychiatrist and/or data to form an opinion.”

AEI spokesperson Phoebe Keller said researchers at the institute “have the academic freedom to follow their own research to conclusions without interference from management.”

Purdue Pharma did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Vance described Our Ohio Renewal’s mission over the years as “to bring exciting new businesses to the so-called Rust Belt”, “to fill in some of the (region’s) mental health treatment gaps” and “to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic.”

He has at times acknowledged that the charity has fallen short of his vision, although he has more recently suggested he remains active – including signing off on a financial statement filed this week in as “Honorary President” of the canceled organization.

In his book, Vance recounts the hardships and heartbreak he and his family experienced following his mother’s struggle with drug addiction, which ravaged the Appalachian regions of Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia- Western when the 38-year-old was growing up. She used both OxyContin and heroin.

Ohio remains one of the states hardest hit by fatal drug overdoses, with about 14 people dying every day, according to the most recent statistics.

Vance expressed hope in media interviews about Satel’s arrival in struggling Ironton, Ohio in September 2018 that it would use its experience to develop better methods of dealing with the drug addiction that could be “scaled up nationally” or perhaps to produce “an article or a book”. -long publication” detailing his discoveries. She hasn’t done either yet.

“I’m working on a book,” Satel told the AP in an email exchange this week, nearly three years after completing his residency.

DR Gossett, CEO of the Ironton-Lawrence County community action organization, which helped oversee Satel’s roughly $70,000 residency, said it “helped people who were struggling in southern Ohio” and “to this day people are grateful for his presence”. This included treating an unknown number of patients in an area long designated as a health care shortage area and what Gossett described as “community planning efforts.”

After the residency ended, Satel’s public remarks suggested she remained as convinced as ever that addiction stems from combined behavioral and environmental forces — not the documented overprescription and aggressive marketing of OxyContin and others. opioids that ultimately helped families and state, local and tribal governments win a $6 billion National Settlement against Purdue in March.

“The data is abundantly clear that decreasing opioid prescribing had no effect on the overall opioid overdose rate,” she said in the email to the AP, blaming the growing number of heroin and fentanyl overdoses.

It’s a familiar stance for Satel, whose opinion columns in national publications included an October 2004 Times article, “Doctors Behind Bars: Treating Pain is Now Risky Business,” a February 2018 Politico article, “The Myth of What’s Driving the Opioid Crisis – Doctor – Prescribed painkillers aren’t the biggest threat” and Slate’s March 2018 article, “Pill limits aren’t a smart way to fight the opioid crisis “.

Jack Frech, a senior executive-in-residence at Ohio University who ran an Appalachian welfare agency in Ohio for more than 30 years, said there was no doubt the area was targeted by prescription opioids early in the epidemic. He said the path to heroin and fentanyl addiction for many residents “started with the glut of readily available painkillers.”

Ryan and his allies are already targeting Our Ohio Renewal in TV ads, citing recent Business Insider reports that question the charity’s payments to a Vance political adviser and public opinion polls.

A year after Satel completed his residency, a friend emailed Vance in October 2020 expressing concern that Satel was headlining an AEI event on the origins of the opioid crisis in the States. States “without a banner ad showing how much money AEI is taking from Purdue Pharma”.

“Yeah. That’s not good,” Vance replied, according to a copy of the email obtained by the AP. “I have a minor affiliation with the AEI. Thinking about dropping him because of this and other things. He did. Keller, the AEI spokesperson, said Vance terminated his nonresident fellowship at the institute that year and did not renew affiliation.

Medical professionals and others on the front lines of the drug crisis say the scourge of drug addiction in Appalachia still needs advocates.

“There’s definitely still a major problem,” said Trisha Ferrar, who runs the Recovery Center in Lancaster, on the edge of Ohio’s Appalachia. “Things are very difficult and people who are sick have a lot of challenges. There’s just a lot of uncertainty in the world right now that adds to that.

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