According to the New York Times, Insys Therapeutics agreed to pay $225 million to settle civil charges, as well as federal criminal charges that the company illegally marketed fentanyl—a highly addictive painkiller—to doctors. Insys Therapeutics agreed to plead guilty to five counts of mail fraud, paying $28 million in forfeiture and $2 million in fines, as well as $195 million to settle allegations of violations of the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act governs fraud against the federal government via drug sales to such programs as Medicare.
Subsys Originally Approved by the FDA to Treat Terminal Cancer Patients
The acceleration of sales of the drug was accomplished through bribes to physicians and deliberately misleading insurance companies. The drug in question, Subsys, is a spray form of fentanyl, which was initially approved by the FDA to treat chronic, severe pain experienced by terminal cancer patients. Despite this, Insys apparently devised methods of coaxing physicians to write prescriptions for patients who did not fit the FDA’s approval criteria.
PA Writes 672 Subsys Prescriptions in Return for $44,000 from Insys
As an example, the Washington Post reported the story of a physician’s assistant who was employed in New Hampshire at a pain clinic. The PA joined the Insys program the second year Subsys was on the market (he had not written a single prescription for the drug the first year). During that second year, the PA wrote a staggering 672 Subsys prescriptions, receiving $44,000 in kickbacks for those prescriptions.
Federal Government Cracks Down on Opioid Manufacturers
The federal government has recently cracked down on drug manufacturers, seeking to hold these manufacturers responsible for the opioid epidemic in the United States, as well as the more than 200,000 opioid overdoses which have occurred in the past two decades. Many states are also suing opioid manufacturers over their roles related to the opioid crisis, even going after specific individuals—case in point, being the Sackler family who owns Purdue Pharma and is the manufacturers of OxyContin.
Strong Action Required According to Prosecutors
Prosecutors in the Insys case said the egregious behavior by the drug manufacturer simply required strong action.
Insys Executives Convicted of Racketeering Conspiracy
Five former Insys executives—including the founder of the company, John Kapoor, were convicted of racketeering conspiracy related to the aggressive marketing of Subsys. According to the federal prosecutors, Insys used phony speaker programs between 2012 and 2015 to spread the word about Subsys, blatantly marketing the fentanyl spray to a much broader range of patients than approved by the FDA.
These top executives could face as many as 20 years in prison after being found guilty of using “speaker’s fees and lap dances,” as well as other similar incentives to convince physicians to write more prescriptions of the Subsys fentanyl spray. Allegedly, the company even offered jobs to the physician’s relatives and friends, as well as lavish meals and entertainment for the physicians for prescribing Subsys to patients without cancer, and even lying to insurance companies to obtain reimbursement for the drug. In fact, most of the cost of the fentanyl spray was covered by insurance companies.
According to drugabuse.gov, the opioid epidemic has devastated communities, ravaging families across the nation, and fentanyl is a primary culprit. In 2017, out of the drug overdose deaths which occurred, the sharpest increase in those deaths was related to fentanyl and fentanyl analogs (synthetic narcotics).
Getting Help for Your Client Following Harm from Wrongly Prescribed Opioids
Prescriptions for opioids, despite the crackdowns by state and federal governments, continue to cause harm to patients and their families. Wrongful death claims for those who die as a result of over-prescribed opioids are expected to increase in the coming months.
USClaims can help. At USClaims, pre-settlement funding can help your clients pay those unexpected bills or expenses in anticipation of a court judgment or settlement. Call 1-877-USCLAIMS today for the information you and your clients need and deserve.