Whistleblower lawsuits from former sales representatives working for fentanyl manufacturer Insys allege they were encouraged to trade sexual favors with doctors in order to push prescriptions.
The Department of Justice consolidated five whistleblower complaints May 15 made by Insys employees between 2013 and 2016 that document bribery schemes and federal heath care fraud. The documents detail the brazen actions of Insys executives aimed at maximizing prescription profits of their fentanyl spray Subsys, including paying doctors thousands in kickbacks depending on how many scripts they wrote and encouraging representatives to engage with doctors sexually, reports Mother Jones.
The five complaints from Insys whistleblowers Maria Guzman, Torgny Andersson, Christopher Connors, Allison Erickson and Sara Lueken, and a female sales representative going by M.S., allege a toxic work culture where employees were encouraged to do whatever it took to increase the number of Subsys prescriptions written by doctors throughout the country. (RELATED: Big Pharma Bribes Linked To Doctors Prescribing Large Quantities Of Opioids)
The complaint from Guzman, a former Insys sales representative, says executives encouraged taking doctors to expensive dinners, strip clubs and shooting ranges, “so that the doctor then returns the ‘favor’ to the sales representative by prescribing Subsys,” according to a review of the documents by Mother Jones.
The Guzman complaint also details how the company hired a dental hygienist as a sales representative to allegedly, “have sexual relations with doctors in exchange for Subsys prescriptions.” A manager allegedly later said the former dental hygienist was, “dumb as rocks, but that she was sleeping with another doctor and getting a lot of prescriptions out of him.”
The whistleblower complaint by the unidentified M.S. alleges a manger told her to, “behave more sexually toward pain-management physicians, to stroke their hands while literally begging for prescriptions.”
The fentanyl spray Subsys is specifically approved for treating “breakthrough pain” related to cancer treatments, however, executives also encouraged employees to push doctors to prescribe the drug for general chronic pain conditions at dangerously high doses.
This strategy directly caused patient deaths, including a 32-year-old woman in New Jersey who fatally overdosed on Subsys that was prescribed to her for treating fibromyalgia, according to a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey attorney general.
The complaint from M.S. also alleges that when she confronted management about concerns over the safety of the drug, she was told the patients were, “already addicts and their prospects were therefore essentially rock-bottom.”
Insys is currently facing lawsuits in multiple states for illegally bribing doctors to unnecessarily push the dangerous medication. Seven former Insys executives and managers are battling charges of fraud and conspiracy and will face trial early next year.
John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of Insys, is among the indicted for allegedly personally directing the company’s bribery schemes.
Insys engaged in the alleged criminal schemes as the U.S. opioid epidemic continued to deteriorate. Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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