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Prescription opioid producer based in Chandler under fire

Fentanyl is a narcotic that is typically administered to people with chronic pain, including end-stage cancer patients. It is also used as an anesthetic. It is considered 80 times more powerful than morphine and can kill by inhibiting breathing. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

Chandler-based Insys Therapeutics, a producer of a popular prescription opioid, is under fire for its practices of selling and allegedly indirectly promoting abuse of its painkiller called Subsys.

It’s most telling case involves two Alabama doctors who prescribed nearly $5 million of the highly-addictive painkiller to Medicare patients in 2013 and 2014, reports the Wall Street Journal.

According to the paper, Insys co-founder and billionaire Chairman John N. Kapoor personally visited with Drs. John Couch and Xiulu Ruan. The company additionally paid them about $270,00 in combined fees to work as consultants on behalf of Insys.

Insys declined to respond to specific questions for this article but said in a statement that it is “committed to working with the health care community to help ensure the proper prescribing and use of our products.” The company itself hasn’t been accused of any crimes.

The prosecutors consider the fees bribes for the doctors prescribing the drugs more than any other doctors in the country, according to federal data. The pair wrote more than a quarter million prescriptions of Insys products, some which were allegedly used by addicts or “diverted to drug traffickers,” the indictment said.

The company produced large sums of Fentanyl — Subsys is a Fentanyl drug — an opioid that can be “up to 50 times as powerful as heroin” and, according to the charges, has aided the prescription drug addiction crisis in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal reports that data shows Insys promoted doctors to over-prescribe their products.

Of the top 20 physician-prescribers of Subsys to Medicare patients in 2014, more than half were also among the 20 largest recipients of consulting and other fees from Insys that year, a Journal analysis of recently released federal data shows.

Prosecutors in more than 15 jurisdictions have begun determining if Insys had illegal practices.

Two former Insys employees have already been charged in a separate case.

Additionally, federal prosecutors in Boston arrested the leader of the company’s reimbursement team for encouraging fraud in “obtaining payment for Subsys from pharmacy-benefit managers,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Insys also allegedly promoted its sales representations to ask doctors to “prescribe the highest doses possible,” prosecutors told the paper.

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