Beshear sues 9th opioid maker, says it makes him the most aggressive attorney general, based on number of suits

Filing his ninth lawsuit against a maker of drugs that have contributed to the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Andy Beshear said “This lawsuit makes Kentucky the most aggressive state in pursuing these companies in the nation.”

The lawsuit, against Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics, “alleges the company exacerbated Kentucky’s opioid epidemic by placing profits over the health of Kentuckians,” a news release from Beshear’s office said. “Kentucky now leads the nation in the number of individual opioid lawsuits filed by an attorney general.” Some suits by other attorneys general have multiple defendants.

The Hardin County suit claims the company fraudulently persuaded physicians to prescribe Subsys, a fentanyl-based mouth spray, to treat chronic pain. The Food and Drug Administration allows the drug only for “breakthrough pain in cancer patients,” the release said. The suit “alleges the company accomplished its scheme by fraudulently acquiring insurance coverage approvals, giving kickbacks to doctors, and incentivizing its salesforce to engage in unlawful and deceitful conduct. The lawsuit cites numerous company emails and promotional materials that describe the company’s alleged illegal behavior.”

Beshear, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in the May primary election, is not the first law-enforcement official to go after Insys. His release notes, “Between 2016 and 2017, federal prosecutors indicted and arrested Insys founder John Kapoor and several Insys executives alleging they conspired to bribe prescribers, many of whom operated pain clinics, to prescribe Subsys off-label. . .. Insys’ illegal and deceptive marketing practices were described in detail in a 2018 U.S. Senate report.”

“Insys defended its promotion of Subsys against similar charges in New York, saying it made up a ‘very small percentage’ of opioid prescriptions in that state,” Josh James reports for Lexington’s WUKY. The company told the Palm Beach Post, in response to being added to a lawsuit in Florida, that it is about “allegations of misdeeds by former employees,” and the firm has new management and staff.

The release said “Beshear has sued three national opioid distributors, Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergenOhio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corp., which together are responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky; distributor and retail pharmacy Walgreens; and pharmaceutical manufacturers Johnson and JohnsonMallinckrodtEndo Pharmaceuticals and Teva. Beshear’s office has won fights to keep four of his current opioid lawsuits in Kentucky courts. Three of the four additional suits are also pending in state court.”

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