Former sales representatives working for Insys -- the manufacturer of fentanyl opioids -- allege that they traded sex with physicians in order to sell prescriptions of the powerful painkiller. On May 15, the Department of Justice consolidated five complaints made by Insys employees between 2013 and 2016 about alleged bribery and fraud. Insys executives are accused of seeking to maximize the profits of the company’s Subsys fentanil spray by paying thousands of dollars in kickbacks to doctors, while also encouraging sales reps to get into bed with doctors.
According to Mother Jones magazine, complaints from whistleblowers, Torgny Andersson, Christopher Connors, Allison Erickson, Maria Guzman, Sara Lueken, and a female rep identified as “M.S.” allege that Insys encouraged employees to do whatever was deemed necessary to increase the number of prescriptions for Subsys written by physicians throughout the U.S. Guzman, for instance, said that Insys execs encouraged employees to treat physicians to expensive meals and strip clubs in order to curry favor with them. Guzman also accused the company of hiring a woman as a sales representative to allegedly, “have sexual relations with doctors in exchange for Subsys prescriptions.” According to court documents, an Insys manager said that the woman was, “dumb as rocks, but that she was sleeping with another doctor and getting a lot of prescriptions out of him.”
The whistleblower identified as M.S. alleged that a manager told her to, “behave more sexually toward pain-management physicians, to stroke their hands while literally begging for prescriptions.”
While fentanyl spray Subsys was approved in 2012 for treating “breakthrough pain” associated with cancer treatments, executives allegedly encouraged employees to convince doctors to prescribe it for general chronic pain and at dangerously high doses. Allegedly, the sales strategy led to several patient deaths, including a 32-year-old woman who died from a Subsys prescribed for treating fibromyalgia, according to a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey attorney general.
Insys is facing lawsuits in a number of states for illegally bribing doctors to prescribe the drug unnecessarily. Seven former Insys executives and managers are facing fraud and conspiracy charged. The founder of Insys, John Kapoor, is among those indicted.
Insys has been associated with the ongoing crisis of opioid use throughout the U.S., which has been a special focus of the Trump administration. In 2016, fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest narcotic substance in America by claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2016, drug overdoses became the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people.
According to the Kansas City Star, court records reveal that Torgny Andersson -- a pharmaceutical sales representative -- frequented the office of Dr. Steven Simon of Overland Park KS. Andersson was also working for the federal government as a whistleblower in the case against Insys Therapeutics. According to court documents, Insys execs are accused of using a speaker program to pay kickbacks to physicians who prescribed Subsys. Simon is facing lawsuits filed by two former patients and the husband of woman who died of an overdose, while the FBI delivered a search warrant in 2017 at the pain treatment center where he worked.
Andersson’s complaint claims that Insys execs told drug reps to pay kickbacks to doctors on the basis of the number of Subsys prescriptions they issued. "Insys often pays these speakers between $1,200 and $2,400 for talking even if the event is as short as 15 minutes long," Andersson's complaints says. "Sometimes speakers are paid although they never speak to any other physicians. They are paid to speak to no one although attendance forms may be falsified to give the appearance that other physicians attended the engagement."
However, the complaint does not mention Simon or any other physician by name. Simon biggest earner among Subsys speakers Andersson's territory and the eighth highest-paid nationwide, earning $221,000 from August 2013 to December 2015