Over a year ago, it was uncovered that a Big Pharma entity spent over $500,000 to oppose legalizing medical marijuana. This is just one example of how the pharmaceutical industry working over years to influence marijuana policy in America. What was so interesting about this company’s efforts is that their own product was a sublingual fentanyl spray.
That’s the same synthetic opioid that became a major factor in the ongoing opioid crisis in America as it was integrated into the illegal drug market.
Marijuana advocates see the move from drug makers to oppose legalization as an attempt to prevent competition. Studies show cannabis can be an effective substitute for pain treatment. Many states with medical marijuana laws acknowledge it as a means to help treat chronic pain patients.
So it became even more telling when it was revealed that the same fentanyl maker undermining medical marijuana was also developing their own synthetic THC.
Insys Therapeutics VS Cannabis
This isn’t the only time we have written about the shady dealings of Insys Therapeutics. Some may recall back in 2017 when the former CEO and founding father of the company had criminal charges brought against him, along with other company executives, for racketeering and corrupt marketing schemes.
For years, Insys has been trying to sway marijuana policy decisions. In 2011, the Big Pharma racket wrote to the DEA expressing opposition to loosening restrictions on naturally derived THC. In the letter Insys claims “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”
But later in 2016 the company petitioned the DEA to loosen restrictions on synthetic versions of CBD, which is another key component of the cannabis plant. Why? Because they were developing a CBD-based drug to treat pediatric epilepsy. At the time, Insys Therapeutics made a statement claiming their opposition to the marijuana legalization proposition was because, “it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” However, the company did insist that is believed in the benefits of cannabinoids.
Now, the company accused of aggressively pushing an incredibly potent and potentially lethal opioid drug onto patients who did not need it is now working on another new racket- Syndros.
Syndros: Synthetic THC
As a chief financial backer of the opposition to medical marijuana in Arizona, Insys Therapeutics has worked hard to give itself a monopoly on the market.
Syndros is a synthetic version of the THC compound found in the cannabis plant. This is the main psychoactive component of the substance and is behind a lot of the controversy around marijuana legalization. However, Syndros was approved by the FDA to treat cancer and AIDS patients for symptoms including:
- Weight loss
This drug is very similar to Marinol, another synthetic THC product that was already approved by the FDA to treat anorexia in cancer and AIDS patients.
Syndros and its generic variations are considered a Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. This acknowledges it for medical benefits, but indicates a “high potential for abuse.” So it is on the same level as prescription painkillers, morphine, and cocaine.
Meanwhile, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, meaning the FDA still considers it more dangerous than morphine, Oxycontin and now synthetic THC.
Dronabinol is a synthetic THC nasal spray that was quietly granted a Schedule II classification about a year ago. The FDA allows it to be prescribed, sold and federally regulated. This is another product from Insys Therapeutics capitalizing on the components of cannabis while the company fought to smother any competition.
Ironically, in 2007 the company had admitted in a disclosure statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that if cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids were legal “the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”
So in short- they adamantly opposed medical cannabis efforts for years in order to limit competition. Meanwhile, they were developing their own drugs derived from cannabis. But it was not enough for the company to oppose cannabis legalization efforts. Insys also worked to disrupt other Big Pharma companies from trying to create generic versions of its drug.
Shutting Out Competition
Now, according to publicly available documents, Insys has tried to extend its monopoly over its oral dronabinol product. In October 2017, Insys Therapeutics requested that the FDA decline applications from competitors seeking to produce generic versions of Syndros. They’ve already sued two such drug companies:
- Par Pharmaceuticals
- Alkem Laboratories
Each had submitted Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDA). And ANDA is the first step in the process of gaining approval for generic versions of existing drugs. The request from Insys consisted of two parts:
- It asked the FDA to decline to “receive or approve” any ANDA applications that didn’t establish “in vivo bioequivalence” to its drug.
- Asked that ANDA applications for its drug “include fed and fasted state bioequivalence studies.”
Essentially, Insys was claiming that Dronabinol was too complex to be replicated by generic competitors.
However, the FDA eventually denied the company’s petition.
Robin Feldman is a professor of law and director of the Institute for Innovation Law at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She literally wrote the book on all the ways mainstream pharmaceutical companies try to subvert generic competition. When discussing the language used in Insys petition to the FDA, she states:
“Companies pile these exclusivities on one after another to keep generic competitors off the market as long as possible. So the reason I laughed is what you are seeing is a multipronged effort by the brand company to stave off generic entry as long as possible.”
Insys has been able to enjoy some time cornering the market on synthetic THC products. But apparently, it is very likely that more companies will be able to get in on the racket pretty soon.
The Other Synthetic Marijuana
Then there is the other synthetic marijuana sold on the streets, which is very different and extremely dangerous.
Meanwhile, we have seen countless stories in recent years of the synthetic THC products made on the streets for recreational use and how these chemical compounds have resulted in outbreaks of overdoses. Infamous brands like Spice and K2 are designed to mimic the properties of natural marijuana. However, these synthetic cannabinoids can cause a range of adverse side effects, including:
- Cardiac arrest
These are the more dangerous synthetics made in unregulated labs with chemical cocktails that are unpredictable and frequently toxic. Thousands of people have been hospitalized over the years due to the synthetic THC on the street. There are even dozens of fatalities attributed to illicit synthetic THC products.
Again, these are two different variations of synthetic THC. Synthetics like Spice or K2 are not quite the same thing as medications produced by companies like Insys. However, it should at least give some pause to consider that they are being created with the same intention- to artificially manufacture the effects of cannabis.
Drug Makers Want Marijuana Monopoly
Officials all over America are calling out Big Pharma companies for pushing to stop cannabis legalization efforts. Some say many of these drug companies are just trying to sell more drugs that addict patients. Essentially, the argument is that pharmaceutical companies are actively making a profit from drugs containing marijuana constituents while lobbying to prevent medicinal cannabis growth and development.
So do companies like Insys have the best interest of the patient in mind? Can a company accused of questionable tactics and supposedly illegal kickbacks be trusted with a monopoly on synthetic THC? Or are they just want a monopoly on marijuana-derived substances?
And if opioid makers get to dominate the market on synthetic THC products, will they be willing to put more people at risk of drug abuse and addiction in order to maintain their dominance?
Whether it’s natural cannabis, illicit synthetic marijuana, or medical synthetic THC, the risk for substance abuse should be taken seriously. Marijuana use disorder is a real issue that affects a lot of people across the country every day. If medical marijuana products are going to continue to evolve, our treatment of marijuana use disorder has to evolve with it. Innovative and holistic treatment options can make all the difference.
Marijuana use disorder is a very real issue that people struggle with all over America. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, such as chemical dependency or addiction, please call toll-free now to speak with a specialist today. We want to help.
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In 2014 the state of Ohio was #2 for most overdose deaths in all of America with approximately 2,744 deaths. For 2016 early estimates are putting that number at 4,149 Ohioans who lost their lives, a 36% climb from 2015, the year when the Buckeye State had by far the most overdose deaths in the nation.
On average, 11 people died every day from heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and other drugs in Ohio through 2016.
As the nation grapples with these skyrocketing body counts from coast to coast, more government and law enforcement officials are trying to find new ways to take action against the opioid crisis. For those who do not know, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid; one of the most dangerous drugs on the illicit market.
But recently the Capital City of the Midwest has scored a huge win in that fight.
Enough to Kill Columbus
Back in October one drug bust led to investigators discovering 2 kilograms, or 4.5 pounds, of fentanyl in the trunk of a car. To put this in perspective, the Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien stated that:
- A fatal dose of fentanyl is considered to be only 2-3 milligrams.
- In Columbus, Ohio the population is approximately 860,000 people.
Crunching the numbers, the prosecutor points out this amount of the incredibly lethal synthetic drug could have killed every man, woman, and child in the city.
Three California men were arrested in relation to this bust.
Enough to Kill Ohio
Just when you think you’ve heard the worst of it, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. The following month police in the capital city seized 20 pounds of pure fentanyl. In regards to this case, Ron O’Brien said,
“So it would probably be enough to kill all, the entire population in the state of Ohio.”
Again, using the same lethal fentanyl dosage for perspective, Ohio has 11.6 million residents. The amount of fentanyl discovered in the November bust could potentially kill more than 9 million people. O’Brien included,
“Two or three milligrams of fentanyl is not much more than five or six small grains of salt.”
So it stands to reason that 20 pounds of this drug could easily wipe out the vast majority of the inhabitants of the state.
More Record Busts this Year
The opioid epidemic is the greatest drug crisis in the history of the country. As the problem has intensified, the spread of fentanyl and carfentanil has continued to bring dead and devastation. Luckily, there are more major opioid busts this year, with some seizing enough fentanyl to kill entire populations of several states.
In August officials of the Empire State managed to seize more than 140 pounds of fentanyl in August. The Drug Enforcement Administration said that amount could’ve killed nearly 32 million people. Put more bluntly, this amount of fentanyl could wipe out the populations of Texas and Oklahoma… combined!
Back in June officials in this major California city found close to 100 pounds of fentanyl. That is enough to kill 22.4 million people; that is the combined populations of:
- New York
- New Hampshire
The Gateway to the West was able to catch nearly 60 pounds of pure fentanyl back in April. That alone is enough to kill more than 13.6 million people.
Fighting the Spread of Fentanyl
Back in Ohio, Ron O’Brien and other officials know the opioid epidemic is getting worse all over the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest drug report states:
- More than 33,000 people died from opioid-related drug overdoses in 2015
- Close to 10,000 of them were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl
In the state of Ohio, the opioid crisis has placed an increasing strain on resources. Financially it is costing Ohio residents between $6.6 and 8.8 billion per year, according to some experts. That is almost as much as the state spends on education for grades K-12.
Yet the fight goes on.
These massive seizures of this lethal synthetic chemical have undoubtedly saved many lives. However, putting a complete stop to the illicit drug trade is still very far off, if at all possible. Still, taking a few hundred pounds of such a potent and potentially deadly drugs off the streets makes an immeasurable difference.
For more important information on the dangers of prescription drugs, download our FREE E-BOOK “Big Secrets of Big Pharma: Why They Secretly Hope You Get Hooked”
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Treating Opioid Abuse
Holistic drug addiction treatment is an effective and important resource for helping people struggling with substance use disorder, especially in the wake of the opioid crisis in America.
Outbreaks of more life-threatening drug problems including fentanyl and other hazardous synthetics only make the need for supportive and impactful treatment more relevant. If we want to overcome the opioid epidemic there must be an emphasis on how we treat people struggling and on how we support them through the recovery process.
Treating opioid abuse is about building a strong foundation with safe medical detox, personalized therapy, and innovative treatment opportunities. Palm Healthcare Company helps thousands of people all over the country overcome opioid abuse. Our facilities are committed to providing quality care for those dealing with drug abuse, whether it is illicit drugs or prescription drug dependence. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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This past Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will be the Trump administration’s go-to for opioid crisis efforts. This announcement has been met with both praise and criticism. Some say this appointment actually gives validity to the White House’s commitment to solving the ongoing opioid epidemic, while others see it as the exact opposite.
For a little background, Kellyanne Conway worked as a pollster before becoming Trump’s campaign manager during his run for the 2016 presidential nomination. Currently, Conway serves as a White House spokeswoman and Trump surrogate. She has been seen on countless panels discussing the biggest topics and politics. She absolutely has her work cut out for her, so can Kellyanne Conway compete?
The Kellyanne Cons and Pros
So can this infamous Trump advocate, the woman who practically accidentally coined the phrase “alternative facts” compete with the opioid crisis in America? Kallyanne Conway has become notorious for defending some of President Trump’s most flagrant and controversial “alternative facts” in the media. But in her defense, she also has said some things that seem to highlight important prospects for this problem.
So here are some things to consider when we talk about Kellyanne Conway being put in charge of the opioid epidemic.
Lack of Experience
One of the big problems with this appointment people are pointing out is the lack of experience. Critics say this appointment speaks to how little passion the current administration is actually putting into fighting the opioid crisis since Kellyanne Conway has no experience in public health or with drug policy.
But in a time where Americans seem to be putting more trust in people that don’t typically meet the description of “qualified” in hopes that an outsider might bring better results, it makes sense that a lot of people might still hope Kellyanne can do some good.
Yet, there are still those who aren’t so sure. Tom Synan, a police chief and member of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition in Ohio tweeted in response to the announcement:
“Ummm… did we run out of Dr’s, cops, addiction specialists or people who are actually dealing with this on the street to lead this?”
As a first responder, Synan is one of many people who are frustrated with the current actions being taken.
“I don’t want to get involved in politics, but it seems like it is a political position … I think I would have gone out to the country and tapped into people who are national experts who are on the street who are literally dealing with this issue every day,”
It seems many on the front lines are not impressed with the Trump administration’s move to put Kellyanne Conway in charge of efforts to combat one of the worst drug problems in the nation’s history.
Publicity and Perception
During a press briefing about the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the crisis where the announcement was made, Sessions said President Donald Trump chose Kellyanne Conway to “change the perception” about opioids and reduce addictions and deaths.
According to Sessions, President Trump has made the epidemic “a top priority for his administration, including every senior official and Cabinet member.”
An opioid policy expert Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University actually defended the move when speaking to BuzzFeed News, stating:
“It is a positive sign. She is a high-profile figure in the administration, showing the administration takes this seriously,”
Some believe this can offer a sign of hope for more concrete action since many recovery advocates say despite the declaration of a public health emergency from President Trump there has been very little action taken to change the state of the epidemic.
Bertha Madras, a member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and Harvard Medical School professor, said:
“The most important thing that Kellyanne Conway will provide is access … but also commitment… She was at all the meetings, she listened and took copious notes.”
Let’s hope those are some good notes because thus far the opioid problem in America has shown no signs of slowing down. Jeff Sessions justified the appointment by saying Kellyanne Conway “understanding messaging” and can help turn around public perception. But is this about publicity, or is it about the preservation of life?
Surely breaking the stigma and changing the way addiction is viewed does matter, but should someone who specializes in making things look good to be in charge of how this country deals with one of the most prominent crises we face?
Treatment and Resources
Kellyanne does seem to support treatment, but to what extent it is still unclear. In one interview with ABC Kellyanne Conway did say,
“Pouring money into the problem is not the only answer. We have to get serious about in-facility treatment and recovery.”
So she at least appears to understand how crucial effective inpatient treatment is for recovery.
But when reporters mentioned the fact that there needs to be funding for these programs, she put more emphasis on “a 4 letter word called will” that seems to side-step the question- where will these resources come from?
As it now stands, White House has:
- Left the leadership role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy vacant
- Failed to release any written opioid-control strategy
- Not requested funds to replenish the national public health emergency fund that currently sits at just $66,000
In fact, President Trump’s 2018 budget request would increase addiction treatment funding by less than 2%. And don’t be fooled, that increase includes the $500 million already appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act with the Obama administration.
Even Chris Christie, the Republican New Jersey Governor who led the White House Opioid Commission, said:
“In New Jersey, we are spending $500 million,” he said. “I am not, quite frankly, impressed with $1 billion from the federal government for the nation.”
Strict Prevention and Punishment
When you look at what she has said on record in regards to opioids and addiction, it doesn’t really inspire a great deal of confidence. Kellyanne Conway has consistently hinted to an outdated ideology of what addiction is and how to address it.
In the past, Kellyanne has said,
“The best way to stop people dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place… That’s a big core message for our youth.”
That’s right; just say no.
Critics say this aligns with the mindset of Jeff Sessions and others in the White House who seem to think that ‘Just Say No’ tactics actually work, or that purely prevention-based programs like D.A.R.E. can solve the whole problem. While prevention is important, it has proven to be ineffective as a focal point when addressing addiction.
Circling back to publicity, what Ms. Conway does seem to heavily endorse is a White House investigation for a “national ad campaign” on abuse prevention. President Trump himself had voiced his own support for a national advertising initiative to try and deter drug use.
But we all remember those commercials- this is your brain on drugs- and they didn’t really help that much.
Again, it seems Attorney General Sessions and the current administration is more focused on punishment than treatment and strict law enforcement. Sessions said the Justice Department was giving more than $12 million in grants to state and local law enforcement to help them prosecute crimes connected to:
Sessions is also ordering all U.S. Attorney offices to designate opioid coordinators. Kaitlyn Boecker, Policy Manager with the Drug Policy Alliance, has been vocal in her disapproval of the current steps being taken.
“Despite declaring the opioid overdose crisis a public health emergency just last month, the Trump Administration continues to emphasize failed prohibitionist policies while ignoring proven public health measures that we know reduce overdose death, like community naloxone distribution.”
“As we feared, the Administration is using the overdose crisis as an excuse to ratchet up the war on drugs rather than an opportunity to save lives.”
At this point, we can say that the news is not without skeptics. While many are still trying to remain hopeful that maybe because Kellyanne is so vocal and such a well-known surrogate for the president that perhaps she will be able to garner more attention to the issue.
While the fight for more resources continues, we should always encourage people to seek help. There are many safe and effective treatment resources already that have been helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction for decades, like Palm Healthcare Company. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
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The Big Pharma industry is still in the hot seat, and this week another lawmaker is adding a new name to the roster of drug makers to be investigated for shady marketing practices. Alkermes, the company behind the opioid treatment implant Vivitrol, is now being investigated for how they market their product.
Background on Vivitrol
Vivitrol is another name given to the generic drug Naltrexone. Originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 1994, Naltrexone eventually became approved for the treatment of opioid dependence. The medications primary use appears to be blocking the opiate receptors in the brain. It’s intended so that someone using heroin or other opiate-based drugs cannot experience the drugs high.
The Vivitrol shot is made by Boston-based biotech Alkermes. This medication stood out from other Naltrexone medications because Vivitrol is an injection given every 4 weeks with a monthly doctor visit. It is time released for longer lasting relief, instead of being a pill taken once a day.
Supposedly Vivitrol is intended to further help by reducing cravings for opioids. However, Naltrexone and Vivitrol have been refuted by many for having any notable effect on opioid cravings.
Enter Senator Harris
Kamala Harris is a Democratic California Senator who has announced she will be part of launching a new investigation into the sales and marketing practices of the makers of Vivitrol. According to the senator, Alkermes allegedly worked to increase sales of their opioid treatment medication through two questionable strategies:
“Aggressively” marketing Vivitrol to officials in the criminal justice system
Senator Harris says that Alkermes pushes for judges and lawmakers to use their product. The company even provided free samples, which resulted in Vivitrol being actively implemented in 450 treatment programs across 39 states.
Lobbying efforts by federal and state lawmakers
In her statement, Harris also alleges that the company has spent millions of dollars in direct appeals to government officials. Meanwhile, they were contributing to numerous congressional campaigns.
Due to the drug companies marketing, Vivitrol raked in well over $69 million dollars in the third quarter of 2017.
In her statement Senator Harris says,
“We are at the height of a crisis, and companies are taking advantage of pain in order to profit”
“We must hold these companies accountable for their deliberate actions that magnify the opioid epidemic and drive up the cost of drugs for Americans.”
The senator even quoted the chief of addiction medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Anna Lembke, who said,
“Alkermes has taken unethical drug promotion to new depths by enlisting judges, law enforcement personnel, and legislators to favor Vivitrol over proven treatments. Alkermes’ actions undermine public health.”
Which seems like some pretty strong words. In the midst of the opioid crisis, it might be fair to say we should use every resource we can get. However, the Big Pharma enterprises still need to be put in check when it comes to overlooking more effective treatments.
In fact, a 2011 review of studies suggested that Naltrexone was not significantly superior to placebo, and the authors believed there was no sufficient evidence to support Naltrexone therapy for opioid dependence.
One reason Senator Harris seems to have Vivitrol in the crosshairs seems to be that the pharmaceutical company made a habit out of promoting Vivitrol as a more effective treatment than other maintenance drugs, such as Suboxone or Methadone, even though there is no substantive data to support this claim.
As part of the investigation, Harris contacted Richard Pops, the Alkermes Chairman, requesting the company provide data and communication. At the moment Alkermes is disputing the allegations. Senator Harris appears to be calling their bluff, as she was requested that Alkermes submit:
Alkermes has also been asked to turn over any materials provided to participants or speakers for Alkermes since 2010. They’re being asked to disclose amounts paid to the company by various associations, including:
American Society of Addiction Medicine
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Any studies presented to these groups are also to be turned in.
In their own statement, Alkermes states they are “focused on ensuring that patients, healthcare professionals, and criminal justice officials are educated on Vivitrol, and believes that patients should have access to all medications.”
There is no telling whether or not this investigation is going to turn into a witch hunt or if it will blow the lid off of even more bad behavior from Big Pharma. While other drug companies that can be connected to the opioid crisis are already facing lawsuits and others even criminal cases for racketeering and fraud, the Vivitrol producers might find themselves on the chopping block sooner rather than later.
There is already much disagreement about whether or not the Vivitrol treatment is really effective in the first place. Some say the medication helped save their life. Many others have horror stories of uncomfortable side-effects made worse by cravings. Either way, pharmaceutical companies still need to be held accountable for their marketing methods, especially when they seem a little suspect.
For now, this is all a request. Only Republican Senator Ron Johnson has the power to issue subpoenas on behalf of the Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee.
When talking about the most effective treatment programs for addiction, we should also remember that maintenance drugs like Suboxone, Vivitrol and others are not exactly a solution. While they can be effective in keeping people alive and helping to overcome their sickness, the real healing does not come from magic pills or implants. The real transformation comes with developing the understand and the tools to take care of yourself. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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In December of 2016, the Palm Partners Recovery Center blog covered a story about how federal prosecutors were bringing racketeering charges against several employees of Insys Therapeutics Inc. The initial report and the controversy that followed was a profound moment considering criminal charges are rarely ever brought against pharmaceutical companies. Now it seems that even more the corporate drug dealers who helped create the opioid crisis in America are going to be finding themselves under serious scrutiny for their unethical practices.
Last week President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. That very same day, as if to accent the severity of the crisis and the unignorable need for change, the co-founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc. himself was arrested on fraud and racketeering charges.
Insys Therapeutics CEO Taking a Fall
John Kapoor is the former CEO of Insys Therapeutics; a founding father of one of the most prominent opioid manufacturing companies in America. As of last week, Kapoor is reported to be charged with conspiring to push the company’s signature drug for unacceptable uses through a series of bribes and kickbacks.
The drug Kapoor and his company are accused of pushing just happens to be one of the most dangerous opioids on the market, which has contributed to countless deaths across the country over the years- fentanyl.
The brand name for the product made by Insys Therapeutics Inc is Subsys. This extremely potent compound transmits the synthetic opioid fentanyl in spray form. As an opioid analgesic, people use Subsys by spraying it under the tongue for quick absorption of potent fentanyl. Technically, this drug is supposed to only be used for treating cancer patients suffering from severe pain. But according to prosecutors that is very far from the sales strategy Kapoor and his executives were using.
With recent reports showing that approximately 64,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose, and an estimated 20,100 overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, how many of those lives were impacted by the drug Insys forced onto the market with bribes?
According to the prosecution, Kapoor and several other former high-ranking executives at the company colluded to bribe doctors to write-
“- large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer.”
They also allegedly-
“- conspired to mislead and defraud health insurance providers who were reluctant to approve payment for the drug when it was prescribed for non-cancer patients.”
How did they do all this?
The Insidious Work of Insys Therapeutics Inc
Back in 2016, there was the discussion of six former executives and sales-managers from Insys Therapeutics Inc. being arrested. The charges, according to the Justice Department, included:
- Conspiring to defraud health insurers
- Conspiring to bribe doctors into needlessly prescribing Subsys, the company’s fentanyl painkiller
The scam is allegedly a long list of kickback schemes, sham speaking programs, and illegitimate gifts or services.
Allegedly, doctors and nurses were paid to attend dinners at high-end restaurants. These dinners were disguised as ‘speaker programs’ that were actually described as gatherings of friends and co-workers who had no power to prescribe medications. Supposed ‘speakers’ were paid fees of up to several thousand dollars for attending these exclusive outings.
One healthcare provider reportedly received an illegal kickback to the tune of $83,000!
All of this money to bribe doctors and other healthcare professionals to prescribe Subsys, even when inappropriate. So not only were they pressuring doctors to use their product over alternatives, but also to prescribe a dangerous and potentially fatal opioid to people who didn’t even need it.
Other stories written about in Forbes include cases in:
In 2015 a nurse practitioner pleaded guilty to violating a federal anti-kickback statute by taking money from Insys to prescribe the drug to Medicare patients who did not have cancer.
A former Insys sales representative also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback statute by paying two doctors to prescribe the drug.
The state has filed multiple claims against Insys Therapeutics involving the pressuring prescriptions of Subsys for unapproved uses.
Doctors who have worked with the company are being investigated by states including:
U.S. attorneys in the Central District of California and the District of Massachusetts are also investigating Insys Therapeutics Inc.
Shady Gifts and Services
The buck doesn’t stop there either. It wasn’t just cash gifts for unethical practices. Insys Therapeutics wanted their partners in crime to get the full effect of their illicit activities.
The company would send its own employees to work in doctor’s offices when the physician prescribed their fentanyl fuming drug to patients. They even hired the relatives of health care providers as a favor to the family for their loyalty to Subsys.
They allegedly even set up a portion of their staff to defraud insurance companies by calling to speak with insurance representatives while posing as doctors. Some allegations state they were even misrepresenting a patients diagnosis to inflate drug sales.
A December of 2016 indictment states that Insys actively worked to defraud insurance companies by setting up the “reimbursement unit” dedicated to obtaining prior authorization from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
Other Insys Therapeutics Exes
Kapoor stepped down as chief executive in January. However, he is definitely not the only former Insys Therapeutics executive currently under fire. This is just the tip of a very rocky ice-berg. The indictment from 2016 included:
Michael L. Babich
Former CEO and President of the company from Scottsdale, Arizona
Former Vice President of Sales from Charlotte, North Carolina
Richard M. Simon
Former National Director of Sales from Seal Beach, California
Former Regional Sales Director from Bryant City, Michigan
Joseph A. Rowan
Former Regional Sales Director from Panama City, Florida
Michael J. Gurry
Former Vice President of Managed Markets from Scottsdale, Arizona
On January 5, 2017, all of these defendants appeared in federal court for their initial appearance and arraignment. Each has pled not guilty and been released on conditions approved by the court. A Status Conference hearing followed on September 12, 2017 that is the first of many to be held over several months. That day Massachusetts federal judge set a trial date for October 15, 2018, for the 6 executives.
For now, we have to wait and see if any of the dirty laundries from these alleged white-collar criminals come out in the wash.
Holding Big Pharma Accountable
For a long time, Big Pharma companies have been using unlawful and corrupt tactics for marketing and distribution, which many now see has brought with it some great devastation to communities across the nation. Now, during an opioid crisis that has claimed tens of thousands of lives a year, for several years, these discretions are finally catching up to those accused of corporate greed. The DEA, FBI and Justice Department, along with several state officials and district attorneys, are now aggressively pursuing charges against Big Pharma operators who have a connection to some of the most dangerous and widely abused narcotics on the market.
The acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb said in a statement,
“In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic that has reached crisis proportions, Mr. Kapoor and his company stand accused of bribing doctors to overprescribe a potent opioid and committing fraud on insurance companies solely for profit.
“Today’s arrest and charges reflect our ongoing efforts to attack the opioid crisis from all angles,”
Kapoor was arrested in Arizona and his indictment was filed in federal court in Boston. Prosecutors say the charge of conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law carries the possibility of up to five years in prison. However, the charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud each carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Needless to say, Mr. Kapoor is in for a fight.
But many are still wondering if these executives will truly be held accountable? And truthfully, is it even enough at this point? Even if proven to be indirectly contributing to the opioid epidemic, how could anyone ever know how many lives were damaged or lost because the powerful played around with lethal prescription drugs to line their pockets?
For more important information on the dangers of prescription drugs, download our FREE E-BOOK “Big Secrets of Big Pharma: Why They Secretly Hope You Get Hooked”
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With recent reports showing that approximately 64,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose, and an estimated 20,100 overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, how many of those lives were impacted by drugs like Subsys being forced onto the market with bribes?
More needs to be done to stop Big Pharma companies like Insys Therapeutics Inc from exploiting the system and putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk. And not just the middle-men should be accountable, but also those sitting comfortably at the top these industries. At least this is a start. But for the individual, it all starts with taking action. Getting safe and effective treatment can not just save a life, but help someone build a foundation for a better one. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
As we have seen time and time again, the opioid epidemic all across America has not been confined to one substance. It takes the shape of prescription painkillers, illicit heroin and even the more potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl. With the gradual progression of this poisonous outbreak, we have seen the stakes get higher and higher. Prescription opioids contributed to a growing population of heroin users. Dealers lacing heroin with synthetics like fentanyl led to higher overdose rates. Then the highly dangerous, frequently lethal carfentanil was added to the mix and now just being around the drugs can almost kill you.
With the addition of fentanyl and carfentanil to the illicit drug world comes a very real and potentially lethal new threat- secondary exposure overdose.
What is Secondary Exposure?
Secondary exposure is also referred to as secondary contamination or second-hand exposure. It is a term usually used with things like asbestos poisoning or mesothelioma. Sometimes it is even used to describe the effects of radiation. It is when people come into contact with gasses or substances that can be absorbed into the body and do very real damage.
The most common comparison you could make is to second-hand smoke, which is when people smoking cigarettes expose others to the toxic gas they and the cigarette release into the air. Second-hand smoke can cause very real health problems, including some cancers. The most terrible aspect of it being that the individual who gets sick doesn’t even have to smoke themselves.
With drug use secondary exposure overdose has now become a real risk thanks to synthetic opioids. Law enforcement and other officials tell us that some of these dangerous substances must be handled with the utmost caution. The news coming out of Ohio this week is just another example of how hazardous these drugs have become.
Ohio Nurses Experience Secondary Exposure Overdose
At Affinity Medical Center, a hospital in Massilion, Ohio, three nurses helped treat an overdose patient. After cleaning the room where the individual was treated, the three nurses were overcome by secondary exposure. They got sick and shortly after lost consciousness.
Detective Shaun Dadisman states,
“They were cleaning up the room and started to feel sick. And then that left them waking up in a hospital bed,”
According to the investigators in this case, the three nurses were treated with Narcan. The opioid overdose antidote Narcan is the brand name for Naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of opioids on the respiratory system. The local law enforcement believe the substance the nurses were exposed to was fentanyl. Thankfully, all three nurses are said to have recovered.
A union representing nurses at the hospital intends to meet with hospital officials to review protocols for environmental contamination. A spokeswoman from the hospital states that the institution does have effective policies, which isn’t out of the question.
Police Officer Needs Narcan after Secondary Exposure Overdose
Just this summer, a police officer in a very similar situation almost died from an accidental overdose due to secondary exposure. Officer Chris Green was responding to a drug call when the incident occurred. The drug he came in contact with at the time was so powerful that even though officer Green said he was wearing gloves and a mask as he searched a suspect’s car, he still ended up being severely impacted by the substance. Merely by ending up with a white substance on his shirt officer Green needed to be revived with not just one, but multiple doses of Narcan.
How Does Secondary Exposure Overdose Happen?
Detective Shaun Dadisman spoke more about the dangers of opioid overdose through secondary exposure. Dadisman states,
“It shuts down your breathing. It shuts down your system so you get to the point where you’re not breathing on your own. And you need that boost and that Narcan is what takes that away so it helps you to recover quickly,”
Fentanyl and other opioids like carfentanil present a whole new level of danger concerning secondary exposure. The drugs are so intoxicating that law enforcement and medical personnel are now forced to come up with new policies and protocols just to handle an individual who may be overdosing on these drugs to protect themselves and others. Dadisman stated,
“I was actually stuck by a needle from an individual on a heroin overdose, so I had to run through all of the testing myself,”
The opioid epidemic now doesn’t just present an elevate risk of death to those who are using these drugs. Opioid abuse now poses a very real and deadly danger to those who work to save the lives of users every day. The greatest danger some of these drugs prevent is that of the unknown. As Dadisman points out,
“I think there will be continued changes – gloves, masks. And the problem with our first responders, police officers and our nurses and stuff, is you don’t know immediately what you’re dealing with. After the fact, you may know, but it may be too late.”
So now every day these synthetic opioid drugs don’t just threaten the lives of people who consume them, whether knowingly or not, but also the people closest to them.
So what can be said about secondary exposure overdose? Well, it is safe to say that with some of the most powerful drugs that are out there simply getting some on your skin or breathing it in, even on accident, can cause life-threatening illness. While hopefully this concept does not start a panic, it is a reality that more people should probably be aware of. Whether people are leaving the drug around others, consuming the drug in public places or being revived by loved ones and first responders, the fact is the drugs are stronger and more life-threatening than ever. The fact that a dose of Narcan might not save someone on the first shot should be enough to push for more awareness and more focus on finding a way to fight back.
So, what more can be done about the possibility of secondary exposure overdose?
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioids do not hesitate to get help. The rates for overdoses and opioid-related deaths are far too high to keep gambling with your life. Protect your loved ones and your future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398