Governor Chris Christie has devoted his final year in office to fighting the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation and the state. Attorney General Chris Porrino announced that the state is going after drugmaker, Insys Therapeutics, for its alleged role in spreading prescription painkillers to a broader population than the drugs were intended for.
The four-count lawsuit includes claims that Insys violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey False Claims Act. The state alleges that the company was pushing its powerful opioid-fentanyl prescription drug, Subsys, for consumption by a wide number of patients at doses higher than what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved. Subsys is meant to be used only by opioid-tolerant cancer patients suffering from severe pain. Porrino alleges that Insys was running a campaign to boost profits, including sham consulting fees and other forms of illegal kickbacks.
Rising Drug Prices
Subsys is a single dose oral spray form of fentanyl that is 50 times stronger than heroin. It landed on the market in 2012 and every year since then, Insys has raised the price for the drug. In 2016, Subsys accounted for 98 percent of net revenues for the firm, generating $74.2 million through the third quarter of that year. In New Jersey, state employee health benefit plans paid out approximately $10.3 million for Subsys prescriptions and the state Workers’ Compensation Program paid an additional $300,000.
Expanding Sales of Opiates
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 1999 to 2010, the amount of prescription opioids sold to hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled, yet there was no overall change in the amount of pain reported by Americans. Fatalities from prescription opioids have quadrupled along with the rise in sales.
The New Jersey lawsuit alleges that Insys was intent on expanding sales of Subsys by expanding sales to specialists, like podiatrists, who would normally have no reason to prescribe such a potent painkiller. This is known as off-label use as the drug is approved only for specialized use with opioid-tolerant cancer patients. The state also claims that representatives of Insys had a strategy of ensuring paid reimbursement claims by using or developing false records. Additionally, it alleges that consumers were misled into thinking that doctors were prescribing Subsys without bias, when, in fact, they were receiving kickbacks for dispensing the drug.
The Leading Cause of Fatality in the U.S.
More than 64,000 people suffered fatal drug overdoses in 2016, making it the leading cause of fatality in the United States. The CDC says most drug fatalities are linked to opioid prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl. New Jersey has now joined more than two dozen cities, counties, and states filing lawsuits against drug makers alleging misconduct in marketing and distributing prescription painkillers.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow and McElroy, LLP Advocate for Victims of Medical NegligenceAt Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP, our legal team has experience with all types of opioid overprescribing cases and can provide you with representation. Call 732-777-0100 to schedule a case evaluation with one of our New Jersey opioid lawyers. You can also contact us online. With offices in Edison, Red Bank, and Toms River, we proudly serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.