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Lawsuit: She died from fentanyl, pushed by a drug rep

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This week, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) announced a wide-ranging investigation of marketing practices behind the top five prescription painkillers sold in the United States in 2015, including Subsys. Her letter to Insys interim CEO Santosh Vetticadenrequesting a variety of internal documents said that evidence shows “an industry apparently focused not on preventing abuse but on fostering addiction as a central component of its business model,” and quoted a sales representative’s approach to patients as “ ‘Start them high and hope they don’t die.’ ”

Richard Hollawell, a partner in the Marlton law firm Console & Hollawell, began targeting the prescription-painkiller industry several years ago, after learning that two childhood friends from Northeast Philadelphia had died of opioid overdoses after seeing the same Center City doctor. When he found a document in another patient’s file that suggested inappropriate marketing of Actiq, another fast-acting brand of fentanyl, he filed suit last fall against Teva Pharmaceuticals, an Israeli company with U.S. headquarters in North Wales, Montgomery County, which had acquired the manufacturer.

That case was dismissed March 23 by a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge, who ruled that it was preempted by federal law; Hollawell said he plans to appeal.

He filed the suit against Insys, on behalf of Sarah Fuller’s estate, that same day. “It’s really a huge fraud that this pharmaceutical company has been involved in, from the top on down to field sales reps,” Hollawell said.

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