NJ sues ‘evil’ painkiller company in war on opioid addiction
TRENTON — New Jersey has joined with other states in suing an Arizona drug company behind a powerful opioid-fentanyl painkiller spray.
The suit alleges that Insys directed its sales force to have doctors prescribe Subsys for any type of chronic pain even though it was only approved for cancer patients who couldn't benefit from other opioids.
Attorney General Christopher Porrino said that "the conduct alleged in our lawsuit is nothing short of evil."
“We contend that the company used every trick in the book, including sham speaking and consulting fees and other illegal kickbacks, in a callous campaign to boost profits from the sale of its marquee drug Subsys,” Porrino said.
The company has previously said that the marketing of Subsys was appropriate.
The suit seeking financial damages says that Insys created false records to get insurers in the state to pay for prescriptions for people who didn't need it.
Arizona sued the company in August, and Illinois reached a $4.5 million settlement with the company.
More than 840 people in New Jersey died from heroin or opioid abuse in 2010 and more than 1,000 have died so far this year, the state says.
The number of people admitted to state-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs as a result of heroin or other opiates increased from 33,000 in 2012 to more than 38,000 in 2016, the state says.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 80 percent of new heroin users became addicted after using prescription pain medications.
The state says Insys raised the price of Subsys every year since its launch, selling $74.2 million in New Jersey from 2012 and the third-quarter of 2016.
New Jersey state employee health benefits plans paid about $10.3 million to reimburse Subsys prescriptions between 2012 and the third-quarter of 2016, the lawsuit says, while the State Worker’s Compensation Program paid $300,000 more.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
New Jersey 101.5 has been taking a deep dive into the state's heroin and opioid epidemic with Heroin Uncut: The Truth About the Crisis a blunt, honest series of articles, videos and podcast episodes exploring just how heroin has tightened its grip on New Jersey — and what we can do about it.
Check out some episodes:
• How Narcan, a great cop and a convicted killer saved my life — No conversation so far has stood out more than then one Jay had with Anthony — a recovering addict who recounted his experience being revived with Narcan.
• The Opioid Industrial Complex — This is who gets rich off your addiction
— Acknowledging that addiction is big business helps clear up what’s really driving New Jersey’s opioid crisis.
• Narcan is saving lives — and that’s bad news — Narcan is an important tool in our war against opiates. But our reliance on it means things have already gone too far.
• Needle exchanges — Why NJ must give drug users syringes right now — An uncomfortable solution? You bet. It’s also why host HIV-positive and drug-recovering host Jay Lassiter doesn’t have hepatitis today.
• Heroin Uncut: Defining New Jersey’s drug problem — Our language about drugs is a jumbled mess. If we don’t understand the problem, we can’t fix it.
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