As the opioid crisis continues, the focus has turned from users and prescription-fillers, to doctors and drug companies. In one case, opioid maker Insys was accused of paying bribes and kickbacks to doctors in exchange for increased prescriptions and dosages of Subsys, a highly addictive fentanyl spray.
Last month, a federal jury found top Insys executives guilty of racketeering conspiracy for their role in the bribery scheme. And this week, the company has agreed to pay $225 million to settle federal criminal and civil investigations into its marketing practices.
Misconduct and Marketing
“The opioid epidemic has devastated communities and ravaged families across this country,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt said, following the settlement. “The Department of Justice is committed to using the legal tools at our disposal to combat the illegal marketing and distribution of opioids, including fentanyl. I want to assure the families and communities ravaged by this epidemic that the Department of Justice will hold opioid manufacturers accountable for their actions.”
According to federal prosecutors, Insys set up sham “speaker programs” to supposedly “increase brand awareness of Subsys through peer-to-peer educational lunches and dinners.” But the programs were really a way to funnel bribe money to doctors and medical professionals to encourage more Subsys prescriptions and higher doses. Insys also allegedly gave physicians kickbacks in the form of jobs for the prescribers’ relatives and friends, lavish meals, and other entertainment.
Subsys was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for pain treatment for adult cancer patients who were already receiving around-the-clock opioid therapy. But Insys also allegedly encouraged physicians to prescribe the fentanyl spray to patients who did not even have cancer. The company was also accused of directing physicians to lie to insurers about their patients’ diagnoses to obtain reimbursement for Subsys prescriptions.
Under the terms of the settlement, Insys will plead guilty to five counts of mail fraud, and avoid further criminal prosecution so long as it pays a $2 million fine, forfeits another $28 million in profits, and pays another $195 million to settle allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act.
The opioid crisis has been devastating. If you or a loved one think you’ve been targeted by illegal marketing relating to an opioid prescription, contact a local injury attorney today.