NC joins whistleblower case against Insys over alleged opiod kickbacks

The case includes a former sales rep who said the drug was often prescribed off-label

A box of the Fentanyl-based drug Subsys, made by Insys Therapeutics Inc, appears in an undated photograph provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama. U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Alabama/Handout via REUTERS/File photo

RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Justice joined in whistleblower litigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice accusing Insys Therapeutics of trying to generate more profit by paying kickbacks to doctors to prescribe powerful opioid medications.

The government’s involvement was disclosed in a filing made public on Monday.  Six U.S. other states— California, Colorado, Indiana, New York and Virginia — have also joined the case against Insys, according to the filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The litigation comes amid a wave of related criminal cases against medical practitioners, and former executives and sales representatives employed by Insys, including its billionaire founder John Kapoor.

In a separate filing, the Justice Department asked that the litigation be put on hold until the criminal cases were resolved.

Subsys is an under-the-tongue spray approved to treat severe pain in cancer patients who are already receiving and tolerant to around-the-clock opioid therapy. The government accused Insys of having since 2012 offered “sham” speaking fees and lavish meals to induce doctors to prescribe Subsys.

It also said Insys knowingly caused Medicare to pay for Subsys by encouraging doctors to prescribe it when it was not needed, or by misrepresenting patients’ diagnoses.

Federal prosecutors in Boston have said Kapoor and six other former Insys executives and managers schemed to bribe doctors to prescribe Subsys and to defraud insurers into paying for it.

The litigation that the government joined included a 2013 lawsuit by Maria Guzman, a former Insys sales representative who said doctors improperly prescribed Subsys for off-label uses such as treating back pain.

She sued under the False Claims Act, which lets private whistleblowers sue on the government’s behalf and share in recoveries.

Reuters News Service contributed to this report.