Former senior DEA official takes Purdue Pharma consulting gig

29 March 2019 3 min. read
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Demetra Ashley, a former senior official in the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has reportedly joined the other team, taking on a consulting gig for Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the highly addictive pain medication OxyContin – and a company staring down the barrel of hundreds of lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic in the United States. Purdue is under the microscope for its alleged involvement in marketing OxyContin, adding to the opioid crisis currently sweeping the US – an issue that has claimed thousands of lives and created countless other social and legal problems, such as addiction and illegal drug sales.

Ashley left the DEA in March and founded Dashley Consulting LLC, which her LinkedIn page refers to as “one of the nation’s leading experts on pharmaceutical regulatory compliance and investigation.”

“I have been consulting for members of the industry and I began my consulting business in June 2018 after I retired,” Ashley said in an interview with NBC News. She would neither confirm nor deny the identities of her clients. She also told the news agency “that she had been subpoenaed to be deposed in a consolidated group of approximately 1,500 complaints involving Purdue and several opioid makers, to discuss her work at the DEA to help combat the opioid crisis,” according to the daily Connecticut newspaper Stamford Advocate.

While there is no evidence that Ashley consulting for Purdue would be illegal, it is certainly unethical according to experts concerned about former federal officials working for the companies they once watched over.

Ashley’s alleged team-up with Purdue all but screams for scrutiny. In her December 2017 testimony to the Senate Judicial Committee, Ashley spoke on several DEA initiatives to take on the opioid epidemic, including methods by which the DEA could combat writing and filling of illegitimate prescriptions, many of which stem from “pill mill” doctors who essentially take cash for drug prescriptions.

Former senior DEA official takes Purdue Pharma consulting gig

“Our nation has been devastated by the opioid abuse, with more than 300,000 opioid-related deaths,” she said in her testimony. “The epidemic has created a generation of abusers, currently estimated at 12 million. While prescriptions of ‘Schedule Two’ opioids have begun to decline, making Schedule Two opioids less accessible, Mexican drug cartels have filled the void by producing cheap heroin and counterfeit pills, often mixed with fentanyl. The results are tragic.”

Craig Landau, Purdue CEO, said last week that the company was considering filing for bankruptcy – a tactical move that could help contain, or entirely prevent, its liability in the slew of litigation heading its way, which could cost the company tens of billions of dollars. “Filing for Chapter 11 protection would halt the lawsuits and allow Purdue to negotiate legal claims with plaintiffs under the supervision of a US bankruptcy judge,” sources told Reuters in early March.

The pharmacological consulting landscape is at the moment extraordinarily active regarding employment. Much of this revolves around the legalization of marijuana in the US, Canada, and possibly Europe, which has the potential to become the world’s largest leading cannabis market within five years. New companies require consultants’ help, and consultants are eager to ride the high.

Deloitte, Nielsen, and Headset, for example, have entered a “strategic alliance to provide insights to stakeholders in the Canadian cannabis sector.” These insights will allow clients to make better-informed decisions. FSD Pharma, meanwhile, hired Greg Button, Korn Ferry’s global head of healthcare recruiting, to aid the company with executive recruitment during a transitional period. FSD Pharma is seeking to transform a former Ontario Kraft plant into the largest hydroponic growth facility in the world.