Former Insys employees charged with fraud in connection with Subsys fentanyl spray kickback scheme

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by Charles Miller

A former sales manager and sales representative at Insys Therapeutics—the manufacturer of the fentanyl sublingual spray Subsys—have been arrested by investigators on federal anti-kickback charges. Jonathan Roper and his former colleague at Insys, Fernando Serrano, are accused of making payments to doctors as part of what officials call a “sham” educational program to prescribe millions of dollars’ worth of the fentanyl spray to patients.

Insys has admitted that it is under federal investigation for its sales and marketing practices in connection with Subsys. The criminal charges against Roper and Serrano are not the first to be made in connection with Subsys. In 2015, a nurse in Connecticut pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks from Insys through paid speaking engagements at the same time that she was one of the nation’s top prescribers of Subsys.

Prosecutors say that the Subsys kickback scheme is especially shocking because it involves the drug fentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller that is about 80-100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is the same drug that the musician Prince was using when he suffered a fatal overdose. Subsys is a fentanyl spray that is used under the tongue to treat patients with severe cancer pain. The product was approved by the FDA in 2012 only for the treatment of cancer patients continuing to experience pain despite the fact that they were being given round-the-clock opioid painkillers.

According to the indictment filed in New York against Roper and Serrano, doctors were paid $3,000 per event to attend speaking engagements held at fancy restaurants. Guests at these events were often friends of the doctors who had attended similar functions in the past. In some cases, signatures on the guest list for the events were forged in order to make the events appear more legitimate. Some of these dinners also involved trips by the doctors to strip clubs where their drinks and other expenses were covered for them.

In exchange for this lavish treatment, doctors were expected to prescribe high volumes of the Subsys fentanyl spray. According to the indictment, one top prescriber received $147,245 in speaking fees from Insys in 2014 and prescribed $1.2 million in Subsys prescriptions that were reimbursed by Medicare. Another doctor was paid $112,340 in 2014 and issued $1.4 million in Subsys prescriptions, which were also paid by Medicare.

Although Subsys was extremely profitable for Insys in the years after it was approved by the FDA, the company has faced questions recently about its marketing practices for the drug. According to a 2014 study, only one-percent of Subsys prescriptions were issued by oncologists, the doctors who would expect to be among the most common prescribers of the drug to cancer patients.

Patrick Burns, the executive director of the whistleblower advocacy group, Taxpayers Against Fraud, has predicted that additional action against Insys is likely in the wake of the indictments against Roper and Serrano. “I suspect that they are zeroing in on their scope in order to go for a larger corporate hunt,” Burns says. Insys is also being investigated by attorneys general in several states in connection with its marketing of the Subsys fentanyl spray.

Fentanyl Overdose Lawsuits Filed By Heygood, Orr & Pearson

The overprescription of painkiller medications has caused disastrous consequences for patients who developed addictions or suffered overdoses due to their use of these drugs. For years, the drug industry has aggressively promoted opioid medications to physicians, regardless of the health consequences their use may have for patients. Doctors who indiscriminately prescribe these opioid medications to patients have also contributed to the growing epidemic of prescription painkiller overdoses in the U.S.

If your loved one has been a victim of an accidental overdose caused by fentanyl products such as Subsys, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the doctor or hospital that prescribed the drug. The first step in filing a fentanyl lawsuit is to speak to a law firm whose attorneys have the training and experience to handle your case and help you to attain the best possible result for your loved one.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed more lawsuits on behalf of victims of fentanyl overdose than all other law firms in the country combined. In the very first case filed by our attorneys against a fentanyl pain patch manufacturer, a jury awarded a $5.5 million verdict to the family of a Florida man who died while wearing a fentanyl pain patch sold under the brand name Duragesic. More recently, our firm obtained a $16 million judgment against two subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson on behalf of the family of an Illinois woman who died while wearing a fentanyl pain patch.  Our firm has also filed numerous lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, or medical staff who improperly administered fentanyl products to their patients, including fentanyl prescriptions that were administered in combinations with other CNS-depressant medications.

If you or a loved one has suffered an overdose involving fentanyl products, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to learn more about whether you may qualify to file a lawsuit. For more information and a free consultation about your case, call toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or follow the link to our free case evaluation form and answer a few simple questions to get started.