Illinois Sues Controversial Drug Maker Over Deceptive Marketing Practices
Jessica Huseman reports in ProPublica:
Illinois’ attorney general has filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, accusing the controversial pharmaceutical company of using deceptive marketing practices — including paying an indicted doctor thousands of dollars for “sham” speaking events — to sell its signature pain medication.
It’s not unusual for drug makers to pay doctors who have histories of misconduct for consulting or speaking about their products. A recent ProPublica analysis found that more than 2,300 doctors with records of discipline in five states had received payments from drug and medical device companies since 2013.
Insys was one of more than 400 companies that made payments to such doctors, but its activities have received far more attention than those of its peers.
According to investigations in several states, Insys’ business model relied on funneling substantial payments to the doctors who most frequently prescribed its drugs, even if they had troubling disciplinary records or even criminal histories. These payments were mostly for services related to Subsys, a fentanyl-based medication approved by the FDA to treat patients suffering from cancer pain resistant to other types of opioid drugs.
Insys’ activities have been the subject of 2014 and 2015 reports by CNBC and The New York Times. In June 2015, a nurse in Connecticut pleaded guilty to receiving kickbacks in connection to speaking payments she received from Insys while she was the top prescriber of Subsys to Medicaid patients in the state. In February of this year, a sales representative in Alabama pleaded guilty to fraud charges and in April, a district manager and a sales representative pleaded not guilty in New York, all in relation to kickbacks to doctors involved in speaking programs.
The most recent civil suit, filed Thursday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in Cook County Circuit Court, seeks to impose financial penalties and bar the company from selling its products in the state. Madigan contends Insys routinely marketed the drug for off-label uses, including treatment for chronic migraines. Rather than forging relationships with doctors who treated cancer patients, “Insys instead directed its promotion and marketing in Illinois to high-volume opioid prescribers who are not oncologists or pain specialists who treat cancer,” the lawsuit says. An Insys spokesperson did not return a call for comment.
The company’s highest volume prescriber was Dr. Paul Madison, who prescribed 58 percent of Subsys prescriptions in the state despite treating “few, if any, cancer patients.” Madison was indicted in December 2012 on federal false claims charges for billing insurers for non-existent procedures. Insys sales representatives were aware of this indictment, and were also aware of Madison’s troubling prescribing habits, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit says that . . .