The family of a 32-year-old woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Insys Therapeutics alleging the pharmaceutical company paid kickbacks to physicians who prescribed its powerful opioid fentanyl.
The lawsuit was filed in Middlesex County (New Jersey) Superior Court by the parents of Sarah Fuller and names Insys Therapeutics; the deceased woman’s physician, Vivienne Matalon; Matalon’s practice TLC Healthcare 2; and Linden Care of Woodbury, New York, the specialty pharmacy that filled Fuller’s prescription.
The complaint alleges that Fuller went to see Matalon for fibromyalgia and back pain, during which an Insys sales representative joined them to allegedly convince Fuller that its liquid fentanyl Subsys would relieve her neck and back pain. Matalon prescribed Subsys to Fuller along with the opioids Percocet and Oxycontin. Matalon prescribed Subsys to Fuller for 14 months, with the last prescription written eight days before her death. A toxicology examination revealed significant levels of fentanyl in her system at the time of Fuller’s death.
Subsys was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 and is only indicated for breakthrough pain in cancer patients. Physicians who prescribe the drug are required to sign a form attesting that they are prescribing the drug only for its approved use.
Drug companies are forbidden to promote medications for uses for which they are not indicated. However, doctors have the authority to prescribe drugs for off-label uses. It is unclear whether it is unlawful for drug company representatives to be present at a meeting between a doctor and patient, but Fuller’s attorney said it was “pretty disturbing.”
Source: New Jersey Law Journal