Archive for the ‘Pharmaceutical industry’ Category

Lap-dances, kick-backs, and debt: Infamous opioid maker files for bankruptcy

June 11th, 2019
Insys Therapeutics founder John N. Kapoor leaves federal court in Boston on March 13, 2019.

Enlarge / Insys Therapeutics founder John N. Kapoor leaves federal court in Boston on March 13, 2019. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

Opioid manufacturer Insys Therapeutics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections Monday, just days after pleading guilty to federal fraud charges and agreeing to pay $225 million to settle civil and criminal cases alleging it used kickbacks, bribes, and even a lap dance to sell its extremely potent painkiller.

Insys may be the first major opioid maker to go down in a deluge of lawsuits over the opioid epidemic—it faces more than 1,000 lawsuits from municipal governments. But the bankruptcy throws into question just how much the company will actually pay the federal government from the $225 million deal it made on June 5. Bankruptcy documents show that, as of March 31, Insys had just $175.1 million in assets and $262.5 million already in debt.

In an email to NPR, Insys CEO Andrew G. Long defended the bankruptcy decision, saying: "After conducting a thorough review of available strategic alternatives, we determined that a court-supervised sale process is the best course of action to maximize the value of our assets and address our legacy legal challenges in a fair and transparent manner."

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Posted in addiction, DOJ, drug abuse, fentanyl, insys, opioid, Pharmaceutical industry, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Drugmakers hiked prices 1,000% in massive price-fixing scheme, states allege

May 13th, 2019
Exterior of a modern urban building with the word TEVA on it.

Enlarge / A Teva facility in France. (credit: Getty | Fred Dufour)

Twenty leading drug companies—including Teva Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Novartis, and Mylan—were in cahoots for years to fix and dramatically inflate the prices of more than 100 generic drugs, in some cases to raising prices "well over 1,000 percent," according to a lawsuit filed late last week by 44 states.

The alleged scheme was intended to ensure that each company was a "responsible competitor" who was "playing nice in the sandbox" to get its "fair share" of profits from the drugs. Those drugs included pills, capsules, ointments, and cream. They range from oral antibiotics, blood thinners, cancer drugs, contraceptives, statins, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, drugs used to treat HIV, and drugs for ADHD. A full list of the generic drugs can be found here.

"We all know that prescription drugs can be expensive," said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in a statement. "Now we know that high drug prices have been driven in part by an illegal conspiracy among generic drug companies to inflate their prices."

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Posted in drug pricing, generic drugs, Pfizer, Pharmaceutical industry, Policy, science, Teva | Comments (0)

Girl’s $143,000 bill for snakebite treatment reveals antivenin price gouging

April 30th, 2019
Even this copperhead thinks that's crazy.

Enlarge / Even this copperhead thinks that's crazy. (credit: Getty | Smith Collection)

Snakebites can be painful and scary. But they may seem like weak nips after the hospital’s billing department sinks their teeth in.

Emergency treatment for a copperhead bite in a 9-year-old Indiana girl last summer cost a jaw-dropping $142,938, according to a report by Kaiser Health News. The bill includes $67,957 for four vials of antivenin. That works out to $16,989.25 for each vial—more than five times the average list price of $3,198. The bill also included $55,577.64 for air-ambulance transportation.

The girl, now 10, was away at summer camp last July, hiking in Illinois. When she went to step over a cluster of rocks on the trail, she got a bite on a toe on her right foot. Her camp counselors suspected it was a copperhead snake that bit her and rushed to get her medical treatment. She arrived at St. Vincent Evansville hospital in Indiana by air ambulance where doctors gave her four vials of an antivenin called CroFab. She was then transferred to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis for recovery. All in all, she was released within 24 hours of the bite.

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Posted in antivenin, antivenom, drug prices, medical care, Pharmaceutical industry, science, snake bites | Comments (0)

Shkreli directing notorious pharma co. from prison. It’s still losing millions

March 7th, 2019
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a Congressional hearing.

Enlarge / Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a Congressional hearing. (credit: CSPAN)

Armed with a contraband phone, an incarcerated Martin Shkreli is plotting a comeback with his notorious pharmaceutical company, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. So far, however, the company is still losing millions of dollars.

Shkreli is just 16 months into a seven-year prison sentence over securities-fraud charges. He landed in jail last year for running what federal prosecutors described as a Ponzi-like scheme that duped investors of his hedge funds. According to prosecutors, the fund siphoned millions from a pharmaceutical company he founded, called Retrophin.

But Ponzi-siphoning isn’t what made Shkreli infamous. He gained notoriety in 2015 when another pharmaceutical company he founded, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the rights to a decades-old anti-parasitic drug, Daraprim, and abruptly increased its price from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill. The rise brought a windfall of profits for Turing, as well as widespread condemnation and increased scrutiny on the pharmaceutical industry’s drug-pricing tactics as a whole.

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Posted in daraprim, drug pricing, fraud, Pharmaceutical industry, Phoenixus, Policy, science, Shkreli, Turing | Comments (0)

OxyContin-pusher Purdue blames everyone but itself for opioid crisis

March 6th, 2019
OxyContin-pusher Purdue blames everyone but itself for opioid crisis

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Spencer Platt)

In a motion to dismiss an explosive lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma argues that it is not responsible for the current epidemic of opioid overdoses as the Commonwealth alleges—even if the people now overdosing were initially patients who became addicted to opioids while using its highly addictive painkiller.

Purdue, which forcefully marketed OxyContin after its 1995 FDA approval, notes that opioid overdose deaths are currently driven by use of illicit opioids, namely heroin and fentanyl. Those overdoses, regardless of whether they stem from an addiction formed using OxyContin, are “far removed from a physician prescribing a Purdue medication,” the company argues. The motion goes on:

Those alleged harms happen because of numerous additional intervening acts, including criminal acts by third parties such as drug dealers who sold deadly heroin and fentanyl in the Commonwealth. These are not Purdue’s acts and any connection between Purdue and these illegal acts is too remote to be actionable.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioid pain killers rose in parallel with the amount (in kilograms) of opioids sold in the US—both quadrupling within the time frame of 1999 and 2010. While opioid prescriptions leveled off and began declining in 2012, deaths from the extremely potent opioid fentanyl began spiking nationwide in 2013. Likewise, deaths from heroin also didn’t begin significant upticks until around 2011.

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Posted in addiction, bankruptcy, drug abuse, opioids, oxycontin, Pharmaceutical industry, purdue pharma, science | Comments (0)

Sackler behind OxyContin fraud offered twisted, mind-boggling defense

February 22nd, 2019
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 25: Families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis protest in front of Suffolk Superior Court in Boston as lawyers for Purdue Pharma enter the courthouse for a status update in the Attorney General's suit against Purdue Pharma.

Enlarge / BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 25: Families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis protest in front of Suffolk Superior Court in Boston as lawyers for Purdue Pharma enter the courthouse for a status update in the Attorney General's suit against Purdue Pharma. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

Richard Sackler turned to verbal acrobatics and leaps in logic to try to dodge blame in the fraudulent marketing of Purdue’s potent opioid, OxyContin. The contorted explanations—which at points involved creating new definitions of words and claiming an enigmatic level of politeness—were first unveiled Thursday, February 21 from a sealed, 337-page deposition obtained by ProPublica.

The deposition was taken in August of 2015 as part of lawsuit brought by the state of Kentucky, which alleged Purdue illegally promoted its potent opioid painkiller. Back in 2007, federal prosecutors made similar allegations against Purdue, resulting in the company and three executives pleading guilty to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients over OxyContin’s addictiveness. Numerous legal complaints have piled up against Purdue in the aftermath. Purdue settled many of them, including Kentucky’s, which it settled for $24 million.

Yet in all the court battles, the mega-rich, secretive family behind Purdue, the Sacklers, have largely gone unscathed. In fact, the newly disclosed 2015 deposition is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned over the fraudulent marketing.

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Posted in addiction, opioids, oxycodone, oxycontin, pain, pain killers, Pharmaceutical industry, Policy, purdue, sackler, science | Comments (0)

Drug companies are sitting on generics—43% of recently approved aren’t for sale

February 8th, 2019
Drug companies are sitting on generics—43% of recently approved aren’t for sale

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Ute Grabowsky )

Of the more than 1,600 generic drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration since January of 2017, more than 700—or 43 percent—are not for sale in the US, according to a new analysis by Kaiser Health News.

The finding means that many pricy, brand-name drugs are not facing the competition that could help drive down soaring prices. Among the drugs missing in action are generic versions of the expensive blood thinner Brilinta and the HIV medication Truvada. Moreover, of the approved drugs that would offer a brand-name drug its first competition, 36 percent are being held off the market, the analysis found.

Experts told KHN that the reasons drug makers may withhold an approved generic from the market are varied. Industry consolidation has made buying, manufacturing, and distributing generics more difficult in recent years. Generic drug makers also, as always, face patent litigation from brand-name makers. Then there’s potentially anti-competitive deals, in which brand-name drug makers simply pay generic makers to keep their product off the market for a while—a so-called “pay for delay” tactic.

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Posted in drug prices, fda, generics, Pharmaceutical industry, science | Comments (0)

Infamous pharma company declares bankruptcy after 3,900% price hike

February 6th, 2019
Man wipes really expensive cream from his face.

Enlarge / Man wipes really expensive cream from his face. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

The Chicago-based pharmaceutical company that made headlines in 2016 for dramatically raising the price of cheap skin creams has now filed for bankruptcy. The filing cites, in part, profit-scorching backlash from the price increases, the Chicago Tribune reports.

In September of 2016, Ars reported that the company, Novum Pharma, had repeatedly raised the price of an old, cheap skin cream, bringing its list price from $241.50 to $9,561 a tube—a 3,900 percent increase total. The cream, called Aloquin, is “possibly effective” for treating eczema and acne, according to the Food and Drug Administration. It’s composed of a generic antibiotic and extracts from the aloe vera plant.

Novum raised Aloquin’s price after acquiring the rights to it from Primus Pharmaceuticals in May of 2015. The company similarly raised the price of another skin cream, Alcortin A, to $7,142, the Financial Times reported at the time.

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Posted in drug pricing, fda, generic medicines, Novum, Pharmaceutical industry, science | Comments (0)

Insys exec allegedly gave lap dance to doctor while pushing deadly opioid

January 30th, 2019
Former Regional Director Sunrise Lee, a defendant in the Insys trial, exits the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on January 29, 2019. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Former Regional Director Sunrise Lee, a defendant in the Insys trial, exits the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on January 29, 2019. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images/Boston Globe)

A former regional sales director for Insys Therapeutics allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor as the company was pushing him to prescribe its deadly opioid painkiller to patients. That’s according to multiple reports of testimony given Tuesday from a former Insys colleague in a federal court in Boston.

The testimony is part of a federal racketeering trial getting underway this week against Insys founder John Kapoor and four former executives, including the sales director, Sunrise Lee. Federal prosecutors allege that the Insys executives used bribes and kickbacks to get doctors to prescribe the company’s powerful and addictive fentanyl spray, called Subsys—which was intended only for cancer patients experiencing pain that’s not alleviated by other medications (aka “breakthrough pain”). The former executives are also accused of misleading and defrauding health insurance companies that ended up covering the drug for patients who did not need it. A congressional investigation in 2017 concluded that Insys sales representatives bluntly lied and tricked insurers to do that—and the investigators released the tapes to prove it.

Two additional former Insys executives—former Insys CEO and President Michael Babich and former Vice President of Sales Alec Burlakoff—were also charged in the case but have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

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Posted in fentanyl, fraud, healthcare fraud, insys, lap dances, opioid, Pharmaceutical industry, Policy, racketeering, science | Comments (0)

Family behind OxyContin called addicts “criminals” while pushing pills

January 19th, 2019
Family behind OxyContin called addicts “criminals” while pushing pills

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

With the opioid epidemic raging, you may at this point be familiar with Purdue Pharma. It makes the powerful painkiller OxyContin and has been widely blamed for igniting the current crisis.

After debuting OxyContin in 1996, Purdue raked in billions using aggressive and deceptive sales tactics, including ratcheting up dosages of the addictive opioid while lying about its addictiveness. As OxyContin prescriptions soared, opioid overdose deaths increased six-fold in the US, killing more than 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017. Of those deaths, around 200,000 involved prescription opioids specifically.

In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty in federal court to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the addictiveness of OxyContin. The company has seen a flurry of lawsuits making similar allegations since then.

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Posted in drug abuse, drug addiction, fda, opioid epidemic, opioids, overdose, oxycontin, Pharmaceutical industry, purdue pharma, science | Comments (0)