The State of New Jersey is suing the drugmaker Insys Therapeutics in Middlesex County Superior Court, alleging the company engaged in a reckless “greed driven” campaign to boost sales of its potent and highly addictive opioid painkiller Subsys.
New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, part of the state’s Department of Law and Public Safety, filed the lawsuit in Middlesex County Superior Court, claiming the Arizona-based company violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey False Claims Act with its Subsys sales tactics.
Subsys is a fentanyl-based opioid painkiller that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved only for the narrow purpose of treating breakthrough pain (non-persistent flare-ups of moderate to severe pain) in opioid-tolerant cancer patients.
According to the state’s lawsuit, however, Insys targeted a much broader patient base for its Subsys sales, directing its sales reps to tout the drug’s use for any type of chronic pain and at higher doses.
The emergence of extremely potent and highly addictive opioid painkillers in recent years has led to a national epidemic of opioid abuse and death, largely because the manufacturers often aim to boost sales volume and profits by pushing the drugs for inappropriate and unlawful uses.
The state’s lawsuit also alleges that Subsys’ sales scheme caused the state’s employee health benefit plans to pay about $10.3 million Subsys prescription reimbursements between 2012 and 2016. The state’s workers’ compensation program paid an additional $300,000 for the inappropriately prescribed drugs, the lawsuit contends.
The lawsuit also claims Insys routinely misled health insurance plans and pharmaceutical benefits managers to cover Subsys prescriptions; fabricated and falsified records to show bogus cancer diagnoses, breakthrough pain diagnoses, and other afflictions; concealed its call center number to dupe pharmacy benefits managers and insurers to approve reimbursements; misinformed doctors and other prescribers about the drug using skewed data; and provided kickbacks to prescribers to induce more Subsys prescriptions.
While it was working to boost Subsys prescriptions, Insys also steadily raised the drug’s cost. According to the complaint, a one-month supply of Subsys in 100 mcg doses cost approximately $2,800 in 2012. By 2015, the price of the opioid drug in the same amount costs more than $4,000 – an increase of more than 70 percent.
“The conduct alleged in our lawsuit is nothing short of evil,” New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in the statement. “Knowing full well it was putting lives in peril by pushing for broad based consumption of a highly-specialized and incredibly powerful prescription drug—a form of fentanyl approved only for treatment of pain-racked and opioid-tolerant cancer patients—Insys allegedly forged ahead and did it anyway.
“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,” Porrino added.