Big Pharmaceutical Company, Insys, Brought to Justice for Opioid Overdoses
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The death of Sarah Fuller of Stratford, NJ due to opioid overdose shed light on some of the shady to downright evil marketing practices of many pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. The opioid epidemic is one of the biggest struggles of our country right now, and we are slowly realizing that much of the fault lies with the companies that create and distribute the drugs.
Sarah died due to an overdose on prescribed fentanyl, specifically. She was prescribed Subsys, a product of the company, Insys Therapeutics, Inc. The drug was only approved to treat cancer, but it was wrongly prescribed to her for fibromyalgia and back pain related to two car accidents she had been in.
Her case, along with several other cases, led to a long court battle between victims of the drug and Insys, one of several companies involved in distributing and aggressively marketing opioids.
The trial found Insys founder John Kapoor guilty of racketeering. “Richard M. Simon, the former national director of sales; Sunrise Lee and Joseph A. Rowan, both former regional sales directors; and Michael J. Gurry, former vice president of managed markets” were also found guilty. Some of the shady marketing tactics used included paying doctors for fake speeches and manipulating others with lap dances.
These tactics were clearly premeditated. Like any for-profit company, their goal was to sell as much of their product as possible. Insurance companies are billed “approximately $10,000.00 per prescription,” so they are incentivised to get as many people hooked to the drug as possible to maximize profits.
One of the more damning pieces of evidence was an email sent by Alec Burlakoff where he said that “patients on high doses would be desirable because they ‘will continuously refill their monthly prescriptions indefinitely.’”
Even worse, employees fraudulently called insurance companies, posing as doctors’ assistants. They blocked their phone numbers so that the calls could not be traced back to them. Their goal was to speed up the approval process for the drugs. One of these calls was related to Sarah Fuller’s case.
Unfortunately, these tactics are not unique to Insys. This is the mindset that many executives in the pharmaceutical industry have. It is a side effect of for-profit drugs. However, this case is a step in the right direction to bringing these companies to justice and regulating their tactics.
“Experts said the Insys verdict could encourage other corporate prosecutions and said it demonstrated that the public was willing to mete out penalties for high-level executives at companies profiting from the sales of highly addictive painkillers.”
This is just the first step toward holding big pharma accountable. Fixing the problem permanently will require years of activism, court battles, and legislation. Unfortunately, people like Sarah Fuller don’t have time to wait for that change. That’s why it’s so important to educate yourself and others about the dangers of prescription painkillers.
If you know someone who is regularly taking painkillers, please have them visit their local opioid addiction treatment center. Even if they are not yet addicted, the people there will be able to assess whether or not the prescription and dosage is appropriate.
Your doctor might not be completely honest about the dangers, and the company that makes the drug definitely won’t. Luckily, there is a growing movement of people who are ready to help anyone who has been wronged by pharmaceutical companies.
Richard Hollawell has worked with dozens of families who have suffered losses due to opioid over prescription. If you or a loved one need legal help, don’t hesitate to fill out a form or call us at 1-800-681-3550 to speak directly to our attorneys.