Wednesday, October 24, 2018

McCaskill: Drug company put profits above people's lives

(From Sen. Claire McCaskill)

For almost two years now, I've been digging into the role opioid manufacturers and distributors have played in the opioid epidemic. We've published a series of investigative reports, and last week released the latest one -- and what it shows is shocking.

As NBC News has reported, one physician's assistant prescribed a patient Subsys -- a powerful fentanyl drug -- for her chronic back pain and called it a miracle drug, upping her dosage to SIX TIMES the original amount over only 8 months.

Later, she found out he had received more than $41,000 from the drug's distributor, Insys Therapeutics, to push high doses of Subsys to his patients.

And the report I released suggests that patient wasn't the only one. My staff reviewed 1.6 million pages of internal documents from Insys Therapeutics. And those pages show a jarring pattern -- a corporate strategy -- to boost prescriptions of Subsys in the midst of a massive opioid addiction crisis.

The company took an anything-goes approach to push sales of Subsys higher, funneling money to doctors for speaking events and distorting the doctor-patient relationship by paying sales representatives more for getting physicians to prescribe the highest dose possible (one executive emailed sales reps: "the bigger the script, the more money you make").

I talked to NBC Nightly News about this, and I wanted to make sure you saw the clip:

Insys paid doctors to talk about the company's drug with their colleagues in an effort to increase prescribing.

They gave bonuses to sales reps who pushed the highest strengths of Subsys, and penalized those who failed to generate enough prescriptions.

They leveraged personal relationships between doctors and sales reps.

What united these strategies? As one Insys national sales director wrote in October 2013, "What drives us all? COMPENSATION."

This company put profits above all else to line the pockets of their executives -- and that could have cost people their lives. It's disgusting, unethical, and immoral, and it should be illegal.

Here's the report:

The conclusion of my latest report? "As long as both sales representatives and prescribers have strong financial incentives to boost prescriptions, greed will continue to distort the patient-physician relationship."

I won't stop fighting to fix this,

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