Oregon Assistant Attorney General Busts Big Pharma

Feb 24, 2016

Oregon’s Assistant Attorney General testified before Congress Tuesday about combating pharmaceutical fraud and opioid abuse. He told the US Senate Finance Committee, Oregon was the first governmental entity in the country to settle with a pharmaceutical company over allegations they deceptively promoted a powerful opioid for off-label uses. KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert reports.

The drug company Insys settled with the state of Oregon for deceptive promotion of the powerful opioid Subsys.
Credit RxList

The company Insys makes a Fentanyl spray called Subsys, which is many times more powerful than heroin. Oregon Assistant Attorney General David Hart’s team issued a formal notice of unlawful trade practices to the company. The state alleged the drug maker provided improper financial incentives to doctors to increase prescriptions. Although meant to treat cancer pain, Hart found records showing the drug was deceptively promoted to treat chronic to mild back and neck pain, even migraines—a condition for which Subsys is contra-indicated.

Hart: “I was truly shocked that in 2015, when the scourge of the opioid epidemic is so widely known that a manufacturer of a Schedule II drug would promote in such an unconscionable and irresponsible way.”

The investigation ended in a $1.1 million settlement. Hart testified how that money is being used to address the opioid crisis in Oregon: regional pain guidance groups, addiction treatment training, and expanding the availability of Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the lethal effects of an opioid overdose.