Illinois Attorney General Accuses Insys Therapeutics of Deceptively Marketing Fentanyl Painkiller

Company allegedly targeted high opioid prescribers

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has sued Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, accusing the company of deceptively marketing and selling an addictive fentanyl-based medication––intended to treat cancer pain––to doctors for off-label uses, according to a Reuters report. The lawsuit comes as U.S. authorities seek to combat a national opioid-abuse epidemic.

Madigan said the lawsuit seeks to bar Insys from selling its products in Illinois and to impose financial penalties on the company.

Subsys sublingual spray contains fentanyl, a highly addictive and regulated synthetic opioid. Insys launched the product in 2012 for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients 18 years of age and older who are already receiving and who are tolerant of opioid therapy for their underlying persistent cancer pain. In 2015, Subsys generated $329.5 million in net revenue for the company.

The product’s labeling includes a boxed warning regarding the risk of respiratory depression, medication errors, and the potential for abuse.

The lawsuit alleges that rather than marketing the drug to oncologists treating cancer patients, Insys illegally marketed it to doctors who prescribed high volumes of opioid drugs.

Madigan said Insys rewarded doctors across the U.S. for prescribing Subsys for off-label uses through payments for sham speaking events and expensive restaurant dinners.

The case is People of the State of Illinois v. Insys Therapeutics Inc, Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division, No. 2016CH11216.

Sources: Reuters; August 25, 2016; and Subsys Prescribing Information; December 2014.