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Arizona AG sues company, three doctors for opioid prescription scheme

(Subsys Photo)
LISTEN: Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General

PHOENIX — The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging a Chandler-based drugmaker paid doctors to prescribe powerful opioids to patients.

“We need to put a stop to the unethical and greedy behavior in the pharmaceutical industry that is fueling the opioid crisis in our state,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a press release.

The lawsuit alleged that Insys Therapeutics Inc. paid three doctors — Steve Fanto, Nikesh Seth and Sheldon Gingerich — fake “educational speaker” fees to prescribe Subsys, an opioid spray containing fentanyl.

The suit said, between March 2012 and April 2017, the three doctors were responsible for prescribing more than $33 million worth of the drug, which accounted for 64 percent of the company’s sales of Subsys in Arizona.

Insys has been sued in several states — such as IllinoisNew Jersey and Alabama — for similar schemes. It paid $4.5 million in the Illinois case.

The company has sold more than $1 billion worth of Subsys so far.

The Arizona lawsuit also alleged Insys provided insurers with false or misleading information to authorize prescriptions.

“For example, Insys employees were allegedly instructed to mislead insurers into believing that patients who were prescribed Subsys had cancer when in fact they did not,” the release said.

The company also allegedly claimed the Food and Drug Administration had approved Subsys for more uses than what was actually approved, such as the treatment of minor pain.

The suit sought an injunction against the company as well as restitution for customers and disgorgement of all profits and gains.

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