The opioid crisis has dominated the national news cycle for several months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opioid overdoses spiked 30% from July 2016 to September 2017. Some experts believe the crisis could have been caused by the proliferation of opioid prescriptions. Last week five doctors were indicted for accepting kickbacks in from Insys (INSY) in exchange for fentanyl prescriptions:
Insys paid the doctors, in some cases more than $100,000 annually, in return for prescribing millions of dollars’ worth of the company’s painkiller product, the indictment said. It charged that Insys funneled the illicit payments to the doctors through a sham “speakers bureau,” in which the doctors were paid for purportedly giving educational presentations about the drug that, in many cases, were mere social gatherings at high-end Manhattan restaurants.
Such gatherings involved no educational presentation, and attendance sign-in sheets were often forged to include the names of health care practitioners who were not actually present, the authorities said.
“These prominent doctors swore a solemn oath to place their patients’ care above all else,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Instead, they engaged in a malignant scheme to prescribe fentanyl, a dangerous and potentially fatal narcotic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, in exchange for bribes in the form of speaker fees.”
The allegations against the doctors are pretty alarming. There has been speculation that in certain cases drug makers offered financial incentives to doctors in exchange for writing opioid prescriptions or for prescribing them for additional indications. I believe the indictments could create more risk for Insys.