“It’s about money,” Declares the Executive Director of “Pro Bono” Physicians Against Drug Shortages — But Whose Money?
Since October, we’ve been looking into a group called Physicians Against Drug Shortages (PADS) that claims to be a “pro bono” patient advocacy group. PADS Executive Director Phillip Zweig has led a campaign against entities that purchase medical supplies in bulk known as Group Purchasing Organizations (GPO) — without disclosing the ties that he and others in his organization have to certain medical device manufacturers.
Although Zweig has said he has no financial ties to companies opposing GPOs, an investigation by Checks and Balances Project shows that he has had ties with one manufacturer in particular: Retractable Technologies, Inc. (RTI), a publicly-traded corporation based in Little Elm, Texas. Like Zweig and PADS, RTI appears to have a long-history of opposing GPOs.
Zweig’s most recent public appearance was from the audience on November 17, 2018, at two Duke Margolis Center panels in Washington, DC, as part of “Identifying the Root Causes of Drug Shortages and Finding Enduring Solutions.” The panel included experts from government, academia and industry.
In his statements from the audience, Zweig’s behavior was disruptive and dominating, raising questions about his motivations. “I came down here at my own expense,” he declared.
The moderator of the first panel was Gregory W. Daniel, PhD, MPH, RPh, of the Duke-Margolis office in Washington, D.C. The second panel was moderated by Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, founding Director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University. When asked if there were questions and comments for the panelists, Zweig was quick to speak up. (Following is an edited transcript and audio of his comments.)
After several minutes, the moderator spoke up.
Zweig continued. A few minutes later, the moderator tried again.
Twice more, the moderator tried to give others a chance to ask questions from the floor. But Zweig would not stop talking. The moderator finally had enough.
Perhaps Zweig is simply passionate in his opposition to Group Purchasing Organizations. He has a right to his opinions. But his known financial renumeration by RTI in the past deserves to be examined.
Compensation from RTI
Zweig worked as Communications Director for RTI from 1999 until at least 2007, according to RTI’s 10K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 2, 2007. In December 2000, he was granted a bi-weekly salary of $4,615.38, along with an expense account and bonus eligibility.
He also received 30,000 stock options from RTI from 1999-2000. Those options vested by 2000-2001.
RTI went public on May 4, 2001, at a price of $12.75. On November 30, 2018, it closed at $0.67.
According to one leading technology research firm, although RTI is one of the top five manufacturers of safety needle devices, “the global safety needles market is highly fragmented with many global, local, and regional vendors offering a broad range of safety needles to end-users. [T] hey are slowly losing their significance due to increased competition from local and regional players.”
A review of Retractable Technologies’ statements of acquisition of beneficial ownership by individuals filed with the SEC does not indicate whether or not Zweig owns Retractable Technologies stock.
Zweig’s employment may or may not have ended in 2007. But his connection with RTI may not have ended there.
Consultant to a Movie Called “Puncture”
Zweig’s bio in a January 2012 white paper that he co-authored on GPOs and drug shortages states, “he worked as a consultant to the producers of Puncture, a Hollywood legal thriller that addresses GPO corruption.”
An “unofficial website” for the film, which reads like promotional marketing, describes it this way:
“Puncture” is legal thriller loosely based on the true story of two struggling young lawyers, Michael Weiss (Chris Evans) and Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen), who were hired by an eccentric inventor/manufacturer to find out why he couldn’t sell his remarkable, lifesaving safety syringe to U. S. hospitals.
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2011. It was released in U.S. theaters in September 2011. The film’s budget was $10 million but generated only $68,945 in box office sales.
The following year, in 2012, Zweig became Executive Director of PADS.
“It’s about money,” he declared at the Duke Margolis conference. But exactly whose money is he concerned with? If Zweig is not paid by PADS, who does pay him? And to do what?
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.
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