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Fentanyl Maker Sued By New York For ‘Recklessly’ Pushing Drug As Deaths Surged

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials in New York are suing a fentanyl manufacturer for knowingly flooding the state with the highly potent painkiller “at a time when the opioid epidemic was ravaging” the city.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed the lawsuit Thursday in the state supreme court against Insys Therapeutics, which produces a fentanyl based medication for cancer patients called Subsys, seeking to recoup roughly $75 million that officials argue was illegally earned. The complaint alleges Insys purposefully downplayed the risks of the drug, bribed doctors to unnecessarily prescribe it and lied to health care insurance companies to secure their authorization, reports Times Union.

Schneiderman also accuse Insys of “recklessly” encouraging doctors to prescribe Subsys for unapproved conditions.

“At a time when the opioid epidemic was ravaging New York, Insys Therapeutics allegedly marketed a drug illegally by blatantly disregarding the grave risks of addiction and death that opioids pose,” said Schneiderman, according to Times Union.

The fentanyl-based drug Subsys accounted for 98 percent of net revenue to the company in 2012, the same year the Food and Drug Administration first approved the drug for the treatment of pain from cancer. The lawsuit alleges Insys defrauded insurance companies by giving payouts to doctors who overprescribed Subsys, including through fees for fake speaking engagements.

Insys has not yet commented on the allegations in the New York lawsuit. The company is currently facing litigation in a number of U.S. states, including allegations that six former Insys executives and managers in Boston bribed doctors to prescribe Subsys.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives in 2017, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016. Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.

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