In recent years, a former president and the current president of ASAM have come under scrutiny for ties to big pharma. Dr. Stuart Gitlow became president in 2013. At the time, he was simultaneously medical director of Orexo, a manufacturer of buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In 2014, in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Gitlow recommended increasing the number of patients who should be given access to buprenorphine.
Red flags were raised almost immediately. Mark Willenbring, a former director of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, asked, “How can someone who is employed by the drug company have any credibility when his financial interest is in selling the drug?”
It’s an important question, especially given that Gitlow also supported a decision by state Medicare programs to switch to the Orexo brand of buprenorphine products. The conflict of interest here is hard to ignore.
The connections to buprenorphine manufacturers did not end with Gitlow. Current president Dr. Kelly Clark is the chief medical officer for Clean Slate, a company that has been fined for the improper prescription of buprenorphine. To make matters worse, Clean Slate partners with Apple Tree Partners, which owns a pharmaceutical company and has funded an advocacy campaign that supported buprenorphine treatment.