Former DEA Official Now A Paid Consultant For Purdue Pharma

By Lindsey Weedston 03/29/19

Insiders wonder if the former DEA official anticipated becoming a paid consultant for Big Pharma when she was with the agency.

Image: 
Demetra Ashley
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Demetra Ashley, former acting assistant administrator and senior official for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), is currently a paid consultant for one of the top opioid drug manufacturers in the country, according to NBC News sources.

As acting assistant administrator, Ashley warned the Senate in 2017 that a “robust regulatory program” would be needed in order to prevent the misuse of controlled prescription drugs such as Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin and other opioid medications.

She specifically called out the over-prescribing of these drugs as “inextricably linked with the threat the United States faces from the trafficking of heroin, illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogues,” and by extension, the entire opioid epidemic.

At the same Senate hearing, Ashley argued for a law that made it very difficult for the DEA to use immediate suspension orders against companies like Purdue Pharma to either be revised or repealed.

The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, passed in 2016, made it nearly impossible for the DEA to take urgent action against a drug company when it “represents an imminent danger to public health or safety,” she said.

Now, she is being paid by Purdue to advise them via her new consulting firm, Dashley Consulting, LLC. Purdue is currently facing around 2,000 lawsuits for its alleged role in the opioid epidemic via deceptive marketing tactics and encouraging doctors to over-prescribe OxyContin and similar drugs.

After decades of specializing in preventing the diversion of prescription drugs, some are questioning whether Ashley did all she could to combat the alleged role of Purdue Pharma and other companies in the opioid epidemic and whether her new consulting position is a violation of ethics.

While there is nothing technically illegal about this, Washington University law professor and government ethics expert Kathleen Clark says that Ashley’s new role with Purdue raises questions about “whether the prospect of a payday after leaving government tainted the actions of the regulator while still in government.”

“Did this person act differently in government because they anticipated or wanted to get the payday from these very powerful economic actors who have huge amounts at stake?” Clark asks.

When contacted by NBC News, Ashley did not confirm or deny consulting for Purdue Pharma, but acknowledged that she has “been consulting for members of the industry” since June 2018, three months after she retired from the DEA.

She also confirmed that she has been subpoenaed as part of a consolidated lawsuit against opioid companies because of her former role in the DEA.

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at NotSorryFeminism.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyWeedston

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