Monday, December 03, 2001

Ethics opinion sought on post

State official on drug maker's panel

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — The state's drug control manager is serving on a national advisory board funded by the manufacturer of the pain reliever OxyContin.

        Danna Droz, a manager for the drug control unit of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services, has been on the 14-member advisory board assembled by Purdue Pharma L.P., of Stamford Conn., since June.

        The Research Abuse Diversion Addiction Related Surveillance System, which is seeking solutions to deal with OxyContin abuse and other prescription drug abuse prob lems, advises the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

        OxyContin, which became a problem in eastern Kentucky this year, led to the arrests of more than 200 people for trafficking in the drug in February. The drug is a powerful time-release pain killer that abusers either inject or snort for an immediate high.

        Dr. Rice Leach, commissioner for the Department of Public Health, requested an Executive Ethics Commission inquiry on whether Ms. Droz has conflict of interest with Purdue Pharma. A ruling is set for January.

        Ms. Droz is among other cur rent and former public officials working in some capacity with Purdue Pharma.

        Joe Famularo, a former U.S. attorney for Kentucky's Eastern District, has also been an unpaid consultant for the company.

        Ms. Droz, who also served on the Governor's OxyContin Task Force trying to address the OxyContin abuse problem, declined comment and referred all questions to Purdue Pharma.

        Dr. J. David Haddox, senior medical director of Health Policy for Purdue Pharma, said the company doesn't directly cover Ms. Droz's travel and lodging costs for the twice-monthly meetings of the board.

        Dr. Leach said asking the ethics commission to make a ruling was only a precautionary measure.

        “I don't think they will tell us it's a problem,” Dr. Leach said. “We agree it's neither a conflict or a perceived conflict.”

        Dr. Leach said he gave Ms. Droz permission to serve on the advisory board and saw no problem with it until he heard that some other states considered taking legal action against Purdue Pharma.

        “It's not at all unusual for companies to fund advisory boards to advise the FDA so the FDA will have knowledge when regulating the company,” Dr. Leach said.


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