Maryland charges opioid maker for kickbacks to doctors

By | September 7, 2018

Maryland’s attorney general charged on Thursday that opioid maker Insys Therapeutics and local healthcare providers gave a powerful opioid to patients who didn’t need it, and exacerbated the opioid epidemic in the state.

Maryland wants Insys to pay the state more than $ 20 million it made in revenue from its alleged conduct. Maryland is the latest state to target an opioid maker for deceiving consumers or hiding the abuse potential of opioids.

“The allegations against Insys describe a calculated scheme employing doctors, pharmacists and sales reps to increase profits and market share at the expensive of the health and well-being of vulnerable patients,” said Attorney General Brian Frosh in a statement Thursday.

[Related: 1 in 5 college students knows someone addicted to opioids]

The state charges that Insys paid doctors thousands of dollars through a speaker program with the hopes of writing more prescriptions of Subsys, an extremely potent opioid used only for treating cancer pain. If a doctor didn’t fill out enough prescriptions, they didn’t get invited to the program any more.

While the Food and Drug Administration only approved the drug for patients with cancer pain, doctors in Maryland prescribed it for lesser pain symptoms like knee or back pain, the state said in a release. A doctor can prescribe a drug for a condition that isn’t approved by the FDA, which was the case with Subsys.

The state adds that Insys created a sophisticated system in which employees misrepresented diagnoses and illnesses to get reimbursement from insurers for inappropriate prescriptions.

“The charges indicate that Insys, knowing that Subsys prescriptions were very inappropriate and unsafe, instructed its representatives to mislead patients’ insurers on almost every call,” the state said.

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Frosh is seeking to get Insys to drop the scheme, return the revenue it got through it, and pay civil penalties for each violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

Insys told the Washington Examiner that it doesn’t commend on pending legal proceedings. The company said back in February that it is complying with the state’s investigation into the company.

Maryland is the latest state to target opioid makers as the opioid epidemic that federal data shows claimed more than 42,000 lives in 2016 rages on.

More than 20 states have sued the drug company Purdue Pharma, maker of popular opioid painkiller Oxycontin, for misleading the public on the abuse potential of the drug.

[Also read: Hospitals team up to start their own drug company]