Insys has shown a complete disregard to those who have been hurt by their powerful fentanyl spray, Subsys.
Between 2014 and 2015, opioid manufacturers paid hundreds of doctors across the country significant sums for speaking services designed to promote these products. Some were paid as much as $25,000 per engagement during that time. Doctors who prescribed particularly large amounts of the drugs were offered the biggest kickbacks, showing a complete disregard toward patients. And, many speaking engagements weren’t even legitimate.
When these findings were initially reported by CNN in conjunction with Harvard professors, it was dumbfounding to many. “I don’t know if the money is causing the prescribing or the prescribing led to the money, but in either case, it’s potentially a vicious cycle. It’s cementing the idea for these physicians that prescribing ‘this many’ opioids is creating value,” Dr. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explained.
Over time, however, it become more and more clear that greed was at the center of a system-wide conspiracy in which everyone was trying to take a cut. Insys was at the center of this conspiracy and the company is a prime example of how infectious this greed can be.
Dr. Gavin Awerbuch, a Michigan doctor who has been convicted of illegally distributing Subsys, testified to the “easy money’’ that helped to persuade him to write unnecessary opioid prescriptions. During his trial, Awerbuch told jurors that he made over $130,000 over the course of just eighteen months by showing up to “educational sessions.” According to Awerbuch, Insys officials would set up speaking engagements “but often couldn’t get any doctors to attend. In those cases, he would have his neighbors and friends show up, while on other occasions, it was just him and a sales rep at the dinner table.” The doctor said, “It was just easy money for me. I got paid $1,600 to show up, have a nice meal and go home.”
The racketeering trial of five former Insys Therapeutics executives accused of bribing doctors across the country to increase their prescriptions of Subsys began earlier this year. Insys founder John Kapor and four other former high-ranking executives are standing trial for allegedly “funneling millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes to prescribers to get them to prescribe the Insys drug, Subsys,” according to court papers. The drug was approved by the FDA only to treat cancer-related pain, but it was being sold to patients without cancer or who had suffered from cancer and recovered long ago.
Michael Babich, former Insys chief executive, has cut a deal with prosecutors. Following his guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and to mail fraud, he said he “felt the company owned several doctors who had received thousands of dollars from Insys to prescribe Subsys, and he didn’t want them to prescribe other competing fentanyl products,” documents indicate.
A rap video was also leaked earlier in the trial showing a top marketing executive rapping lyrics related to Subsys’s profitability. Overall, it seems as if no one at Insys has paid any consideration at all to how dangerous Subsys really is and the company, instead, has demonstrated a complete disregard to patients and their families affected by this drug.