Scandal-Ridden INSYS Replaced 90% of Its Original Sales Force in Makeover

Published: Oct 09, 2017

Scandal-Ridden INSYS Replaced 90% of Its Original Sales Force in Makeover October 9, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

PHOENIX – Arizona-based Insys has been plagued by kickback accusations regarding marketing of its fentanyl-based cancer pain medication Subsys, a fentanyl-based sublingual spray. Multiple states, including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Arizona have accused the company of fraud in order to boost sales.

The lawsuits combined with news that multiple former company executives indicted for the schemes, the company has initiated a makeover of its salesforce to help carry it forward. On Friday, Insys announced it was taking action in order to “prevent the mistakes of the past from happening in the future.” The company said it has replaced the bulk of its management team along with 90 percent of its original sales staff and commercial operatives. In March, Insys tapped Saeed Motahari, the former chief commercial officer of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, as its new chief executive officer. In June, the company brought in Brian Jennings as the new head of sales. Jennings has held numerous sales leadership roles in the industry, including at Genentech and Sanofi .

While the company has acknowledged the maligned sales practices of the past, Insys said it has more than 400 employees who are dedicated to develop treatments for unmet patient needs in multiple diseases including refractory pediatric epilepsy, Prader-Willi syndrome, anorexia in cancer patients and agitation in Alzheimer’s disease.

The announcement followed the latest legal challenge facing the company. On Oct. 5, New Jersey General Christopher Porrino leveled charges against Insys claiming the company directed its sales team to push Subsys to patients. Porrino’s lawsuit said the sales team was told to urge physicians to prescribe the drug to treat a broader range of indications than for which it was approved, Reuters reported. The lawsuit accused the company of kickbacks as incentives to prescribers. The New Jersey lawsuit came on the heels of the company settling similar complaints with the state of Massachusetts, Reuters said.

The attorney general for Arizona has also been conducting an investigation into the sales practices of Insys in that state.

In 2015, the company faced allegations it falsified data in order to sell more of its painkiller. Also in 2015, the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation (SIRF) issued a report alleging an Insys unit has been misleading insurers to change documents to state that pain was cancer-related in order to prescribe Subsys. SIRF maintains Subsys, the spray-on painkiller approved for the treatment of cancer-related pain, is 100 times more powerful than morphine. SIRF said the medication was being used to treat chronic pain that was not cancer related, including joint pain or pain related to military injuries.

In its statement, Insys said that the company is working to resolve issues “related to inappropriate actions taken by some of our former employees.” Regarding the New Jersey lawsuit, the company said prescriptions for Subsys were among the lowest of opiod drugs prescribed in the United States for 2016, about .02 percent. That placed the company below the top 50 manufacturers of opiods in the United States, the company said. The company did not deny that kickbacks were provided, nor did it address charges that prescribers and the company attempted to defraud insurance providers, like the New Jersey lawsuit alleged.

“While understandable, it’s disingenuous to repeatedly demonize a company that has made a firm and sincere commitment and is taking all the necessary steps to conduct business according to high ethical standards. It’s also unfair to the company’s current employees, most of whom are new to INSYS and had no involvement in the past misdeeds,” Insys said in its statement.

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