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New Jersey Sues Big Pharma CEO For Illegally Pushing A Deadly Fentanyl Drug

Prescription painkiller Hydrocodine Bitartrate and Acetaminopohen, 7.5mg/325mg pills, made by Mallinckrodt sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. REUTERS/George FreyPrescription painkiller Hydrocodine Bitartrate and Acetaminopohen, 7.5mg/325mg pills, made by Mallinckrodt sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. REUTERS/George Frey

Officials are in New Jersey are expanding the focus of their lawsuit against a top manufacturer of a fentanyl-based medication to include the company’s CEO.

New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced Friday that the state is amending its current consumer fraud and false claims complaint against Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based pharmaceutical manufacturer. Porrino is targeting Insys’s billionaire CEO and founder John Kapoor, alleging that he engaged in a scheme involving fraudulent prescriptions of their fentanyl-based drug Subsys that led to the death of a New Jersey resident, reports NJ.com.

Kapoor was arrested in Arizona Oct. 26 on federal charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, mail fraud and wire fraud, to which he is pleading not guilty. Porrino said in the filing Friday that “we reject the suggestion that he had only a hands-off, observer’s role in the process of illegally expanding the off-label prescription market for his company’s flagship drug Subsys.”

New Jersey sued Insys, which produces a sublingual fentanyl spray, Oct. 5, accusing the company of flagrantly violating the law by aggressively pushing doctors in the state to prescribe the drug at higher doses for conditions for which it was not approved.

Porrino said Insys defrauded insurance companies by giving payouts to doctors who overprescribed Subsys, including through “fees” for fake speaking engagements. The lawsuit also specifically blames the company for the death of a 32-year-old woman in the state who overdosed on Subsys that was prescribed to her for treating fibromyalgia.

“The conduct alleged in our lawsuit is nothing short of evil,” Porrino said in a statement Oct. 5. “We contend that the company used every trick in the book, including sham speaking and consulting fees and other illegal kickbacks, in a callous campaign to boost profits from the sale of its marquee drug Subsys.”

The fentanyl-based drug Subsys accounted for 98 percent of net revenue to the company in 2012, according to the filing. Kapoor is now specifically targeted in this lawsuit. By going after Kapoor as well as the company, state officials say they can prevent Insys from declaring bankruptcy to dodge a payout.

The company is currently facing litigation in a number of U.S. states, including allegations that six former Insys executives and managers in Boston bribed doctors to prescribe Subsys.

The lawsuit comes amid the national opioid epidemic, which is pushing drug deaths in the U.S. to record levels largely due to the prevalence of fentanyl, which is roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

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