Yale Law School Grad JD Vance’s Opioid Charity Less About Helping People, More About Parroting Big Pharma

JD Vance (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Yale Law School graduate JD Vance’s founding of “Our Ohio Renewal,” a charity designed to deal with the opioid crisis, seems like the best thing about him. (Because it sure isn’t selling out his family as fodder for Hillbilly Elegy or his Peter Thiel-approved politics, which he’s hoping will carry him to the Senate this November.) But then you learn that it wasn’t a very good charity — the Associated Press reports on the “dearth of tangible success” for the organization.

And the one solid thing the now-shuttered charity did — sending a doctor to a year-long residency in Ohio’s Appalachian region — was “tainted” by the doc’s (and her employer’s) connections to Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin.

[Dr. Sally Satel’s] an American Enterprise Institute resident scholar whose writings questioning the role of prescription painkillers in the national opioid crisis were published in The New York Times and elsewhere before she began the residency in the fall of 2018.

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

Even absent the money through-line, an opioid denier who contests the connection between prescription painkillers and drug addiction is *not* the person who should be hired to solve the drug crisis.

But Vance’s campaign denies he had knowledge of the connection:

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

So… he’s just bad at research? How is that supposed to make anyone feel better about him potentially taking on the role of Senator? Because Satel currently says, “The data are completely clear that the decline in opioid prescribing had no effect on the overall opioid overdose rate.” And going back to 2004, it’s a position she’s gone to the mat for, repeatedly.

It’s a familiar position 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 are not the biggest threat” and the March 2018 Slate article, “Pill Limits Are Not a Smart Way to Fight the Opioid Crisis.”

Satel also denies she was paid to regurgitate Big Pharma’s talking points (even though that’s what she did).

In an email to the AP this week, Satel said that she “never consulted with” or ever “took a cent from Purdue” and that she didn’t know that Purdue had donated money to AEI because the institute maintains a firewall between its scholars and donors. She said she relies “completely on my own experience as a psychiatrist and/or data to form my opinions.”

Regardless of what Vance knew — or should have known — it’s still fodder for his opponent in the upcoming Senate election.

That’s a pretty direct attack. You love to see it.

Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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