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North Carolina Sues Pharmaceutical Company Insys Over Opioid Scheme

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North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against drug maker Insys Therapeutics Inc., accusing it of illegally marketing a cancer drug called Subsys to increase its profits.

In a full-blown opioid crisis in the United States, Insys reportedly pushed Subsys by resorting to unlawful means. Subsys is an extremely powerful pain medicine based on fentanyl, approved only for cancer patients who are in a lot of pain.

Insys Legal Troubles

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed the lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday, accusing Insys of bribing doctors to promote and prescribe Subsys even when it wasn't the case.

The new lawsuit piles up on other legal woes Insys is facing. A federal investigation has already charged a number of former Insys executives for taking part in an elaborate scheme to unlawfully push Subsys by bribing doctors. The bribery scheme for the powerful opioid is believed to have been nationwide.

Stein argues that Insys paid doctors to prescribe Subsys even in cases other than alleviating cancer pain. At the same time, Stein also says that the drug maker went as far as to trick insurers so that Subsys prescriptions would be covered.

"As we allege in our complaint, Insys carried out an extensive, coordinated scheme of kickbacks, deception and fraud in the marketing of its drug, Subsys," Stein said.

Subsys: 50 Times Stronger Than Heroin

Subsys is a mouth spray based on fentanyl and it is extremely powerful, which is why it has only received approval for treating great pain in cancer patients. To get a better idea of just how powerful Subsys is, it's 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks to obtain civil penalties from Insys, as well as force the drug maker to give up any profits it made through this illegal opioid scheme.

Stein argues that Insys' scheme was "unacceptable" and "unconscionable," especially as the nation is struggling with a severe opioid crisis.

US Opioid Crisis

According to federal officials, the opioid crisis in the United States has reached alarming rates and the life expectancy has dropped. Officials revealed that nearly four people per day die from accidental drug overdoses in North Carolina, and the phenomenon is nationwide.

In recent years, thousands of deaths in the United States have been linked to opioid overdoses. A CDC report revealed that drug overdoses saw a dramatic spike in 2016, topping 63,600, and more than 42,200 of them were from opioids. That marks a significant increase compared to the previous year, as the number of deaths from opioid overdoses in 2015 was around 33,000.

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