Steve Birr on October 5, 2017
Officials in New Jersey are suing a major pharmaceutical company over their alleged role in igniting the addiction epidemic through deceptive marketing and fraudulent payouts.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino filed a lawsuit Thursday against Arizona-based drug maker Insys Therapeutics. The lawsuit against Insys, which produces a fentanyl based medication for cancer patients called Subsys, accuses the company of flagrantly violating the law by aggressively pushing doctors in the state to prescribe the drug at higher doses for conditions it was not approved for, reports Reuters.
Porrino said Insys defrauded insurance companies by giving payouts to doctors who overprescribed Subsys, including through “fees” for fake speaking engagements. The lawsuit also specifically blames the company for the death of a 32-year-old woman in the state who overdosed on Subsys that was prescribed to her for treating fibromyalgia.
“The conduct alleged in our lawsuit is nothing short of evil,” Porrino said in a statement Thursday. “We contend that the company used every trick in the book, including sham speaking and consulting fees and other illegal kickbacks, in a callous campaign to boost profits from the sale of its marquee drug Subsys.”
The fentanyl-based drug Subsys accounted for 98 percent of net revenue to the company in 2012, according to the lawsuit. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey reached a settlement with the company Thursday, which did not admit to any wrongdoing but agreed to pay out $500,000.
Insys has not yet commented on the allegations in the New Jersey lawsuit. The company is currently facing litigation in a number of U.S. states, including allegations that six former Insys executives and managers in Boston bribed doctors to prescribe Subsys.
The lawsuit comes amid the national opioid epidemic, which is pushing drug deaths in the U.S. to record levels. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.
Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 predicts the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.