If you get caught selling cannabis at college, you can lose your scholarship and access to financial aid. But if your company is caught bribing doctors to sell the deadly opioid fentanyl, you can get a building named after you.
Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company backed by the hedge funds Orbimed Advisors and Scopia Capital, has had its CEO and five other executives charged with conspiring to bribe doctors to prescribe the opioid fentanyl. Insys is now seeking to profit from treating the opioid epidemic that it helped to exacerbate by selling drugs to treat addiction and reverse overdoses.
In December 2016, six executives at Insys Therapeutics, including former CEO Michael Babich, were arrested and charged with paying off doctors to prescribe Subsys, an oral spray form of fentanyl, a powerful opioid that is many times more potent than morphine or heroin. The arrests came amid investigations by several states and the federal government as well as inquiries from Congress and a shareholder lawsuit.
Investigations began in 2014 after doctors who were paid tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees by Insys were arrested for improperly prescribing Subsys. The New York Times reported that, though Subsys was only approved for breakthrough cancer pain, only around one percent of prescriptions for Subsys were made by oncologists. Half of the prescriptions for Subsys were written by pain specialists, with the rest coming from “general practice physicians, neurologists and even dentists and podiatrists.”
It turns out the root cause of the “opioid crisis”, despite all those heart-breaking NPR one-on-one in-depth reports, is that it has been driven by hyper-aggressive and unethical marketing by pharmaceutical firms. The notion of dentists and podiatrists pushing fentanyl is so ludicrous it sounds like a Monty Python skit…