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An FDA official who led the approval of OxyContin got a $400,000 gig at Purdue Pharma a year later, a new book reveals

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text: "Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty" by Patrick Radden Keefe Doubleday


© Doubleday
“Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe Doubleday

  • An FDA director who oversaw the approval of OxyContin got a $400K gig at Purdue Pharma a year later.
  • A new book by Patrick Radden Keefe reported on these claims and on the billionaire Sackler family.
  • A Sackler family lawyer told Insider Keefe refused to meet with them during his reporting process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US regulator who oversaw the approval of the highly-addictive opioid OxyContin got a six-figure gig at the drug’s manufacturer a year later, a new book claims.

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Curtis Wright, once a director at the US Food and Drug Administration who oversaw evaluation for pain medication, got a position with a first-year compensation package of $400,000 at Purdue Pharma a year after he led the approval of OxyContin, according to the book “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe.

Purdue Pharma’s sale of OxyContin, a formulation of the narcotic oxycodone that was said to slow down the release of the strong painkiller when taken as prescribed, has been associated with the rise of the opioid crisis, according to a trillion-dollar lawsuit filed by nearly all US states.

OxyContin was the “most prescribed brand name narcotic medication” for treating moderate to severe pain by 2001, according to a report by the US Government Accountability Office. Deaths from prescription opioid overdose quadrupled between 1999 to 2019, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 247,000 deaths from prescription opioid overdose over the last two decades.

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Keefe’s book explores the lives of the billionaire Sackler family who founded Purdue Pharma and profited off of the sale of OxyContin. Forbes estimates the Sackler family’s net worth at $10.8 billion, as of December 2020.

“This author has refused to correct errors in his past reporting and also blatantly violated journalistic ethics by refusing to meet with representatives for the Sackler family during the reporting of his book,” Daniel S. Connolly, an attorney for the Raymond Sackler family, said in a statement to Insider. “Documents being released in Purdue’s bankruptcy now demonstrate that Sackler family members who served on Purdue’s board of directors acted ethically and lawfully.”

The FDA approved OxyContin in December 1995, originally believing the controlled-release formulation of OxyContin would result in “less abuse potential,” according to the agency’s website. The agency amended the label in 2001, giving OxyContin a “black box” warning it adds on drug with the highest possible abuse potential, per the FDA website.

Keefe wrote Wright had confessed in a sworn deposition that he “might” have written the portion of the FDA package insert that said OxyContin was “believed to reduce the abuse liability of the drug.” Keefe added that Wright would instruct Purdue Pharma to mail him documents at his home office, and conducted reviews of clinical study reports regarding the safety of OxyContin with the help of Purdue Pharma employees.

After Wright left the FDA he spent a year at another company before joining Purdue, according to the book.

“That was sufficient as a cooling-off period, apparently, to allay any concerns that Richard Sackler might have had about the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Keefe wrote.

Purdue Pharma did not have additional comment to add. The FDA declined to comment.

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Health Insurance Tips for Gig Workers

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It goes without saying that you need health insurance, even when you participate as a gig worker and take on contract work instead of working for an employer.


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This story originally appeared on MarketBeat

It goes without saying that you need health insurance, even when you participate as a gig worker and take on contract work instead of working for an employer. You might not even get that excited about paying for health insurance because you’re not sure whether you’ll make any money in the next week, let alone over the next six months.

The gig economy continues to explode. On average, one in four workers serves as a gig worker in 40% of companies. In 6% of companies, gig workers make up as much as 85% of the workforce. Finally, the workforce in the finance sector makes up 25% of gig workers, primarily independent contractors, according to ADP Research Institute’s recent report.

Curious about how to find health insurance if you live and breathe the gig economy? Take a look at a few quick tips below.

How Gig Workers Can Get Health Insurance

How do you get health insurance as a gig worker? We’ll go over a few options.

Option 1: Self-Employed Health Insurance

Self-employed health insurance, also called individual health insurance, offers a plan directly the opposite of a group health insurance plan from an employer. In most cases, you must enroll during the open enrollment period. You can take a look at the various plans available on the Marketplace, a shopping and enrollment service for medical insurance created by the Affordable Care Act through the federal government.

Option 2: Spouse or Domestic Partner’s Plan 

I recently ventured out into the gig economy and I chose this option — staying on my spouse’s plan. You can often tap into lower premiums when you hop on a spouse or domestic partner’s plan because the employer and employee split the premium cost. 

More than half of non-elderly Americans had group health insurance coverage through their employer or the employer of their family member in 2019. 

Employees with a same sex or opposite sex domestic partner can also get health and/or dental insurance for their domestic partner and family.

Option 3: COBRA 

Thinking about leaving your job to try out the big, wide world of gig working? You may want to find out if you can convert your group plan into an individual plan before you say sayonara. Your plan provider can explain how the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) might fit your coverage options best. COBRA specifies that you can extend your health care coverage up to 18 months after you leave your job.

COBRA gives you a kind of safety net by giving you more time to look into various insurance options.

Option 4: Gig Worker Associations

Did you know that you can get insurance as a gig worker? You sure can! 

For example, the Freelancers Union offers a health insurance plan. You can also find dental coverage and life insurance. If you belong to a professional association, find out whether it offers coverage before you strike out on your own or try the Marketplace. It might offer a cheaper option.

How to Get Health Insurance 

First of all, remember that in all likelihood, you will qualify for the special enrollment period. This means you may have 60 days before or 60 days following the event to enroll in a plan. This may make it convenient for you to take some time to evaluate the right health insurance option for you. Take these two simple steps to get health insurance:

Step 1: Compare costs. 

Ask yourself these questions among each plan you consider:

  • How much do you pay for the premium per month?
  • What is the annual plan deductible? A higher deductible means you pay a lower premium and a lower deductible means you pay a higher premium. Learn more about what you need to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance plan will kick in and start paying.
  • What will you pay out of pocket for the entire year, also referred to as your out-of-pocket maximum?
  • What are the coinsurance and copayment (copay) amounts? The coinsurance percentage refers to how you and the insurance policy split the cost of care. Your copay involves how much you pay for a covered service, which you pay to your doctor before you receive the doctor’s care. 

Step 2: Sign up for a plan.

You may want to make your first stop healthcare.gov. You can find a multitude of options on the Marketplace for your state. You can also opt to use a private company if you don’t want to get insurance on the Marketplace.

All ACA plans must cover the following:

  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Out-patient services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative services
  • Laboratory services
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management

Just know that insurance companies can choose how they handle these benefits. You still need to pay your premium to keep your plan every month and all might have various copays! 

Choose the Right Health Insurance Option for You

When you think you might be ready to jump ship from the nine to five slog, remember that you still need to think about practical matters — freedom and “being your own boss” aside.

No matter what, remember that you need to get health insurance. Don’t even think for one second that you can go for one day without health insurance. Remember, even a simple surgery like taking out an inflamed appendix can cost thousands of dollars. 

You want to do as much research in advance prior to leaving your job (if you can) so you can find the best health care option for your personal situation.  

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Gig Workers Being Paid $500 for Payroll Passwords – Threatpost

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Biden Administration Blocks Trump-Era Rule Allowing Gig Workers to be Classified as Independent Contractors | Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby LLP

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On Wednesday, May 5th the Biden Administration blocked the Trump-Era Rule that would have made it easier to classify gig workers who work for companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash as independent contractors instead of employees. What is a gig worker you may ask? A gig worker is someone who works a temporary job in the service sector as a freelancer. Gig workers have the freedom to set their hours, work from home, and be their own bosses, consistent with what typically was understood to be the classic independent contractor model.

After the Biden Administration’s action, shares of companies that employ gig labor such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash immediately lost stock value.

The goal of the Administration is to provide the workers with wage and related protections, such as minimum wage guarantees, along with benefits normally associated not with independent contractors, but with employees, including such perks as sick time, medical benefits, and overtime pay.

Interestingly, on February 19, 2021, the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court decided that Uber drivers are workers and are not self-employed. Similar decisions have been rendered throughout the United States on a state-by-state basis. In the United States Supreme Court, no action had been taken to date. In California, in 2015, Uber drivers were found to be employees (O’Connor v Uber Techs, 82 F. Supp. 3d 113) but that case was overturned by Proposition 22 in the November 2020 election. Voters overwhelmingly chose to let the ride-hailing companies (who spent more than $200 million on the public relations campaign) continue to treat their drivers as independent contractors. In their public relations campaign, the gig companies warned the public that if the drivers were employees, the companies would employ fewer drivers, set the drivers’ schedules, and that there would be higher fares and longer wait times.

Most state court decisions found in favor of Uber, classifying the drivers as independent contractors while focusing on issues of “control” to determine employment status. Companies such as Uber emphasize the lack of control they have over the drivers. One of the main attractions of the gig job is the flexibility of hours. The driver determines what days of the week they want to work and what hours they want to work. They stop and start as they please. They drive without instruction or control from the Ubers of the world. The income from the work is shared with the company.

Interestingly, an Uber spokesman stated that the current employment system is outdated. “It forces a binary choice upon workers: to either be an employee with more benefits but less flexibility, or an independent contractor with more flexibility but limited protections.” The spokesman felt that the company believes it can offer the best of both worlds with its system intact.

By contrast, a DoorDash spokeswoman said, “Dashers work fewer than four hours per week on average and they overwhelmingly tell us how important the flexibility to earn on their own schedule is to them.”

It will be interesting to see the effect of the government’s protective and proactive stance. Will that signal the end of some gig economy employers? Will that stance reduce rather than increase the income of the workers since the overhead now may include benefits, overtime, and workers’ compensation premiums? And will that stance raise prices for consumers? The additional protection to the employees will come at a cost, and it remains to be seen how that cost will be divided among consumers and employers. Real wages for gig workers could go down, and consumer costs could rise.

The next and final question is whether the federal government’s stance will have an impact on state-by-state decisions concerning the applicability of workers’ compensation benefits. Most states require control over the worker’s efforts to be designated as an employee. Most, if not all, gig companies develop their business models to establish a lack of control. State Court decisions would have to ignore their own statutory and case law precedent to find an employer/employee relationship in many gig worker scenarios.

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