In a headline which should shock no one, yet most of us have come to view it as acceptable American capitalism, NBC News is reporting that drugmaker Insys Therapeutics “is pushing pain to the legal edge of aggressive medical marketing.”
According to “criminal complaints, attorneys general reports and CNBC sources,” NBC News reports that Insys has been accused of marketing its “highly addictive” oral pain spray, Subsys (fentanyl sublingual spray), by “pushing the drug far beyond” its indication for cancer patients and “engaging in potentially fraudulent activities in the process.”
According to “several sources – and emails obtained from current and former employees of Insys, as well as from physicians,” Insys sales staff members “were under immense pressure, including threats of termination, to get doctors to write more prescriptions and higher doses of Subsys for everything from neck pain to migraines.”
Scottsdale, Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics’ revenue is almost entirely derived from the highly addictive opiate fentanyl, which it markets under the brand name Subsys Fentanyl. In the six months ended June 30, 2015, Subsys sales accounted for $147.2 million of the company’s $148.4 million in total revenue. (Insys is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings this morning.)
Fentanyl products are “the most potent and dangerous opioids on the market,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and chief medical officer of the Phoenix House Foundation. According to some physicians, fentanyl is about 100 times more powerful than morphine and gets into the bloodstream faster because it is sprayed under the tongue.
Meanwhile, the FDA, over objection from many physicians, recently approved the use of OxyContin for children 11 years old.
And yet, we continue to blame the addict, and not demand that our government disengage itself from directly collaborating with Big Pharma for profit gain.