Six former Insys Therapeutics Inc., executives and managers are headed to court Oct. 15, 2018, to face charges that they paid kickbacks to doctors to prescribe a powerful opioid painkiller spray to patients for whom the medication was not intended, and conned insurance companies to cover the cost of the expensive meds.
U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs set the trial date for Michael L. Babich, Alec Burlakoff, Michael J. Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee, and Joseph A. Rowan. The trial is expected to last about 10 weeks.
The drug in question is Subsys, a spray version of the painkiller fentanyl, which is intended to treat breakthrough pain in cancer patients already on round-the-clock opioid treatment. Doctors have the authority to write prescriptions for conditions for which they are not intended, but it is unlawful for drug companies to promote medication for off-label uses.
According to the complaint, beginning the summer of 2012 Insys managers allegedly paid medical professionals to speak at sham events and encourage other doctors to prescribe Subsys. If these practitioners did not write enough prescriptions, Insys would cut back on the number of speaking engagements.
Some Insys reps joined physicians in patient rooms to discuss the treatment for patients with conditions other than cancer, such as back pain or migraines. Subsys is a pricey drug and most insurers wouldn’t agree to cover the cost without prior authorization. To ensure that patients got access to the drug, Insys reps would call insurance companies and pretend to be with the a doctor’s office and insist the meds were for “breakthrough pain” without actually saying the prescription was for cancer patients.
Furthermore, fentanyl is one of the most powerful opioids and has been blamed for countless overdoses and deaths and is a particular hot spot in the country’s opioid epidemic. But this didn’t matter to Insys executives and managers, who were making “substantial profits” using the illicit marketing techniques, according to the lawsuit. In October 2018, they will have their day in court.