DOJ announces its intervention in whistleblowers’ kickback suits against opioid maker

by Ben Vernia | May 15th, 2018

On May 15, the Department of Justice announced that it had filed a complaint in intervention in five qui tam (whistleblower) suits against Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, Inc., alleging that the company violated the False Claims Act in its marketing of a form of the powerful opioid fentanyl. According to DOJ’s press release:

On April 13, 2018, the United States intervened in five lawsuits accusing Insys Therapeutics Inc., of violating the False Claims Act in connection with the marketing of Subsys, an opioid painkiller manufactured and sold by Insys, the Department of Justice announced today.  Subsys is a sublingual spray form of fentanyl, a powerful, but highly addictive, opioid painkiller.  In 2012, Subsys was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of persistent breakthrough pain in adult cancer patients who are already receiving, and tolerant to, around-the-clock opioid therapy.

As stated in the complaint, which was unsealed today, the United States alleges that Insys, headquartered in Arizona, paid kickbacks to induce physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe Subsys for their patients.  Many of these kickbacks took the form of speaker program payments for speeches to physicians that were, in fact, shams; jobs for the prescribers’ relatives and friends; and lavish meals and entertainment.  The United States also alleges that Insys improperly encouraged physicians to prescribe Subsys for patients who did not have cancer, and that Insys employees lied to insurers about patients’ diagnoses in order to obtain reimbursement for Subsys prescriptions that had been written for Medicare and TRICARE beneficiaries.

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