Illinois sues Insys Therapeutics over drug marketing tactics: 7 things to know

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit against Chandler, Ariz.-based Insys Therapeutics Thursday claiming the drug company used deceptive marketing practices to sell its popular pain medication, reports ProPublica.

Here are seven things to know about the lawsuit.

  1. Insys allegedly funneled large payments to physicians who regularly prescribed its medications, according to investigations in several states. The most commonly prescribed drug for payments was Subsys, a fentanyl-based drug intended to treat cancer patients experiencing pain that is resistant to other types of opioids, the report states.

  1. The lawsuit wants Insys Therapeutics to receive financial penalties and be prohibited from selling its products in Illinois.

  2. Ms. Madigan believes Insys encouraged physicians to prescribe the drug for off-label uses, such as the treatment of chronic migraines. Instead of marketing the drugs to oncologists, "Insys instead directed its promotion and marketing in Illinois to high-volume opioid prescribers who are not oncologists or pain specialists who treat cancer," the lawsuit reads.

  1. Paul Madison, MD, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist, was Insys' most proficient physician when it came to prescribing the company's drugs. He prescribed 58 percent of Subsys prescriptions in Illinois, although he treated few — if any — cancer patients, according to the report. Insys paid Dr. Madison more than $87,000 for speaking engagements, travel and food between 2013 and 2015, according to the report.

  1. The lawsuit claims the speaking events were really social gatherings that took place in an upscale Chicago restaurant. Dr. Madison's presentations were titled, "Advancements in the Treatment of Breakthrough Pain in Cancer Patients," despite his lack of experiencing treating patients with cancer.

  1. In August 2012, an Insys sales representative emailed the company's then CEO, Michael Babich, to inform him of Dr. Madison's questionable prescribing habits. Mr. Babich responded to the email saying he was "very confident that Dr. Madison will be your 'go to physician.' Stick with him," the lawsuit alleges.

  1. In December 2012, Dr. Madison was indicted on federal false claims charges for billing insurers for fake procedures. Mr. Babich stepped down from his role as CEO in November 2015 after a large amount of negative publicity and a growing number of investigations.

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