Doctors and opiods

Pharmaceutical company gets sued for reportedly paying doctors to prescribe ‘highly addictive’ opioids

The state of Arizona is suing a pharmaceutical company for allegedly paying doctors to prescribe highly addictive opioids to ineligible patients.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit Wednesday that claims Insys Therapeutics paid a small group of doctors speakers’ fees in exchange for the doctors writing a large number of prescriptions for the drug, Subsys, reports AZ Central.

Subsys is a fentanyl spray that’s around 50 times more powerful than heroin. The drug is reserved for cancer patients with extreme amounts of pain.

The Arizona lawsuit also named three doctors along with the pharmaceutical company. The trio – Steve Fanto, Nikesh Seth, and Sheldon Gingerich – were the three top-prescribing doctors of Subsys in Arizona, accounting for two-thirds of the $51.9 million worth of prescriptions dispensed in the state between March 2012 and April 2017.

Elizabeth Gurrieri, a Pinal County resident and former Insys reimbursement-services manager, and Alec Burlakoff, the company’s former vice president of sales, were also named as defendants in the suit.

The suit seeks to bar the defendants from engaging in unfair, deceptive or misleading acts; force them to pay restitution to consumers; disgorge profits; and pay the state a civil penalty up to $10,000 for each violation.

The doctors each wrote an average of 1,000 prescriptions for Subsys, and Insys paid them each an average of $200,000.

Before being paid speaker fees, the three doctors wrote around nine prescriptions a month. The numbers jumped to 62 prescriptions when Insys began paying them.

The lawsuit says that the increase in prescriptions was a direct result of Insys’ bribing.

“These startling statistics were no accident. Instead, they were the predictable and calculated results of a scheme operated by Insys both in Arizona and nationwide.”

Burlakoff allegedly said that doctors should not be rewarded for prescribing the opioid unless they had at least 20 patients on it. He compared the patients to racehorses at a national sales meeting in September 2012.

“Make sure you choose the correct horse/horses … Give your horses all the TLC they need … Ride your horses every chance you get.”

Arizona is reportedly experiencing an opioid epidemic, and the lawsuit alleges that Insys has played a significant part in it.

Brnovich stated in the suit that the pharmaceutical companies contributing to the epidemic need to be stopped.

“We need to put a stop to the unethical and greedy behavior in the pharmaceutical industry that is fueling the opioid crisis in our state.”

[Feature Photo: Pixabay]