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.
The answer, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, is Braeburn Pharmaceuticals Inc. The private company, based in Princeton, NJ, 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 non-profit 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 non-profit 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.