Insys tactics to hike fentanyl sales detailed in Missouri senator's report

Insys Therapeutics used several tactics to fuel sales of  the common opioid fentanyl, including an  aggressive speaker program and compensation incentives tied to dosage strength, according to a report released by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

To compile the report, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reviewed more than 1 million internal documents from Insys, provided at the request of Ms. McCaskill.

The report, "Fueling an Epidemic: Inside the Insys Strategy for Boosting Fentanyl Sales," details how Insys' internal policies boosted the strength and volume of prescriptions for its fentanyl drug Subsys.

Insys reportedly u paid physicians to promote Subsys to their peers and  rewarded sales representatives for pushing providers to write patients high-dosage prescriptions.

The report detailed several other marketing practices used by the drugmaker to push opioid sales, including punishing sales representatives who failed to generate enough prescriptions.

Company executives  continuously reminded sales representatives that strong Subsys dosages yielded higher bonus payouts. And they emphasized the importance of "owning" a physician,  or monitoring and controlling a physician's prescribing behavior, the report said.  

 An outside consultant firm found compliance issues with Insys' speaker program, including the absence of safety content and failure to disclose that the content was sponsored by the drugmaker.  But despite knowing about the speaker program's deficiencies, the company still hosted the talks, according to the report.  

"Insys took an 'anything goes' approach to push sales higher and distorted the doctor-patient relationship with outside compensation, just so pharmaceutical executives could line their pockets. It’s disgusting," wrote Ms. McCaskill. "How does it serve the public interest to allow a pharmaceutical company to tie sales incentives to the dosage strength of a highly addictive and potentially deadly drug? It’s unethical, it’s immoral, and it should be illegal."

Read the full report here.

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