Who Is Sarah Fuller?
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WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM SARAH’S STORY?
In March of 2016, at age 32, Sarah Fuller died in her home in Stratford, NJ due to the toxic effects of prescription fentanyl. She had been suffering from fibromyalgia and back pain following two car accidents and was prescribed Subsys, an opioid painkiller 50-100 times more potent than morphine. Subsys, a product by Insys Therapeutics, Inc., was approved for and only intended for treating breakthrough cancer pain.
So why was this young woman prescribed such a powerful, addictive medication that wasn’t necessary for her medical conditions? The answer lies in the greed of pharmaceutical companies and their fraudulent and often illegal measures to push their drugs into the hands of as many people as possible purely for profit at the expense of addiction and death.
Staggering amounts of evidence show that Insys and its top executives and founder, John Kapoor, who are on trial for racketeering, used a multitude of fraudulent tactics to have doctors prescribe Subsys for those it was not intended and then have insurers pay for the drug that cost approximately $10,000.00 per prescription.
Insys established a department at its corporate headquarters called the “IRC” where its own employees would contact the patient’s pharmacy benefits manager fraudulently posing as a representative from the patient’s doctor’s office. The IRC had a phone system that blocked the incoming call number and then the Insys IRC employee would fraudulently state that they were calling “from the doctor’s office” and “on behalf of” the patient.
During the call in the case of Sarah Fuller, which was recorded and is being used in the Fuller family’s case against Insys, the representative claimed that Sarah was experiencing breakthrough pain, being very careful not to use the word “cancer”, but still bending the truth in order to get approval by the benefits manager for the drug under her healthcare coverage.
How Sarah’s Death Opened Up Shocking Marketing Practices for Opioids
The more details that come out about this case, the more shocking it gets. Insys had been not only setting quotas for their employees who were able to get doctors to prescribe Subsys, even when it was not medically necessary, they had also been lining the doctors’ pockets through kickbacks. When Sarah Fuller went into her doctor’s office in January of 2015, she was met by a pharmaceutical sales rep. from Insys, who openly promoted the opioid for her conditions. Her mother says that they were never informed by the sales representative or Sarah’s doctor that the medication was intended to treat cancer patients.
The company also used titration in the prescribing of her medication (as they did with their other patients), increasing the dosage to the highest possible point. Within a month of taking her first dose of Subsys at 200 micrograms, her dosage was tripled to 600 micrograms. The medication is an under-the-tongue spray and is meant to be taken every 4 hours to relieve breakthrough cancer pain. Breakthrough pain occurs in cancer patients during the course of a regular opioid pain treatment regimen, when a patient needs pain relief but isn’t yet at the next scheduled dose of their medication. Subsys is meant for these occasions and is not intended to treat chronic pain.
Through the fraud committed by Insys, Sarah began taking the potent and deadly prescription fentanyl, Subsys, being unaware it was not intended for her to even consume. The 14 prescriptions of Subsys was taking the life from Sarah. She died just after receiving her last prescription of Subsys in March of 2016.
Sarah was supposed to be married on August 18th, 2017, and wanted to start volunteering again. Instead, her family and friends have to visit her grave, and the fault lies with Insys Therapeutics, for breaking the law to obtain financial coverage for her prescription.
Prescription opioid deaths account for more than a third of all opioid-related deaths, and the people responsible for this crisis must be held accountable. The case against Insys Therapeutics, for Sarah Fuller and her family and for the other victims of Insys’s illegal and fraudulent actions, is moving forward, and Richard Hollawell is helping to lead the charge to bring these corrupt and greedy pharmaceutical executives to justice.