FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Monday he has filed his ninth lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company stemming from Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.
The latest lawsuit was filed in Hardin Circuit Court against Arizona-based pharmaceutical firm Insys Therapeutics, alleging the company exacerbated Kentucky’s opioid epidemic by placing profits over the health of Kentuckians.
The lawsuit claims the company exploited the market by fraudulently persuading physicians to prescribe its drug Subsys, a fentanyl-based opioid mouth spray, to treat chronic pain despite the drug being FDA-approved solely for breakthrough pain in cancer patients.
Despite the limited FDA approval for Subsys, Beshear alleges Insys promoted and marketed its drug for off-label, non-cancer use, and promoted it to non-oncologist doctors in Kentucky. The actions by Insys, Beshear said, helped cause and fuel Kentucky’s opioid epidemic, which is one of the deadliest in the nation.
Beshear accuses the company of accomplishing its scheme, by fraudulently acquiring insurance coverage approvals, giving kickbacks to doctors, and incentivizing its salesforce to engage in unlawful and deceitful conduct. The lawsuit cites numerous company emails and promotional materials that describe the company’s alleged illegal behavior.
“Instead of assisting those suffering from cancer-related pain, it’s clear that Insys chose to place profits over the health of Kentuckians, no matter the cost,” Beshear said. “While the company’s owner and several executives are facing federal criminal charges, my goal is to hold Insys financially accountable for the harm to Kentucky and our people.”
Between 2016 and 2017, federal prosecutors indicted and arrested Insys founder John Kapoor and several Insys executives alleging they conspired to bribe prescribers, many of whom operated pain clinics, to prescribe Subsys off-label. Federal prosecutors filed a second superseding indictment against them in September 2018, narrowing the charges, but maintaining the earlier bribery allegations.
The lawsuit details how the company created an Insys Reimbursement Center that employed a number of fraudulent and misleading tactics to secure reimbursements, including falsifying medical histories of patients, falsely claiming that patients had cancer, and providing misleading information to insurers regarding patients’ diagnoses and medical conditions.
Insys Therapeutics has not yet responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.