AG files lawsuit against doctors and Valley opioid company for alleged false claims, fraud

Posted at 5:02 AM, Aug 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-31 20:38:26-04

Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit Wednesday against three Arizona doctors and opioid manufacturer Insys Therapeutics, Inc.  

The lawsuit alleges that the Chandler-based company "engaged in fraudulent marketing schemes designed to increase the sales of Subsys, a highly addictive opioid prescription drug that contains fentanyl," according to a media release.   

RELATED: Gov. Ducey declares health crisis as opioid deaths rise

Additionally, three doctors Steve Fanto, Nikesh Seth and Sheldon Gingerich allegedly collected "speaker fees" in exchange for writing Subsys prescriptions, according to the lawsuit. The Office of the Attorney General says that 64 percent -- more than $33 million -- of Subsys sales in the state came from written prescriptions from the three doctors.  

The lawsuit also states that: 

  • Insys violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act when it provided insurers false and/or misleading information to get the prescriptions written. The AG's office says, for example, that Insys employees were instructed to tell insurers that patients had cancer when they did not. 
  • Insys gave false and/or misleading information about the FDA's approved uses for Subsys. For example, Insys said Subsys, a "powerful opioid approved by the FDA for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients", could be used for mild pain, the AG's office says.

Brnovich is seeking an injunction to stop Insys from continuing the false representations. He wants the company to provide restitution for patients and wants disgorgement of all profits and gains from the alleged illegal conduct.  

Consumer Litigation Unit Chief Counsel Matthew du Mee is the lead attorney on this case.

Brnovich said in a press release: “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." 

The state released a report that showed Arizona had 790 opioid deaths in 2016 -- a 16 percent increase from the previous year. Prescription opioids caused 482 deaths.