Dedicated readers of the American Cannabis Report will recall the pitched battles for state legalization that raged during the November 2016 election. A total of nine states had ballot initiatives for some level of legalization, and in 8 of 9, cannabis won.
The lone state where the effort failed: Arizona, where voters did not approve adult use (medicinal use was already legal in AZ). Prior to the election, news had spread that some deep pocketed anti-cannabis activists had donated large sums to defeat cannabis. Notably, a pharmaceutical company, Insys Therapeutics, was reported to have donated $500,000 to "Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy", which amounted to 10% of all the money raised by the group.
That company's name stuck in our memories not just for the donation, but for the fact that it makes Subsys, a version of fentanyl, which CNN has called the most powerful opioid in medicine. Fentanyl is 50x stronger than heroine and 50 to 100x times more potent than morphine - .25 milligrams can kill a person. Our readers know that opioid overdoses account for about 100 deaths per day in America, a situation that even the President has declared a National Emergency.
Alarmingly, while spending against cannabis legalization, it had developed its own synthetic THC called Syndros which, even more alarmingly, the FDA approved and placed on Schedule II of the DEA Schedule of Controlled Substances.
Frankly, fentanyl scares us, and the double switcheroo of donating against cannabis while selling synthetic cannabis brought a little vomit to the back of the throat. But that was not the worst of it. It now appears that Insys has been involved in several other naughty activities, some of which are deadly serious.
The Washington Post had reported in a March 24th article that "Insys is also the subject of numerous state and federal criminal investigations, as well as a shareholder lawsuit, over its aggressive marketing of a product containing the potent and deadly opioid painkiller fentanyl. In December, the FBI arrested the company's former chief executive and five other executives on charges that they “paid kickbacks and committed fraud to sell a highly potent and addictive opioid that can lead to abuse and life threatening respiratory depression.” (emphasis added)
But it gets worse(!)
Today, CNN reports that Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has issued a report "Fueling and Epidemic" that includes allegations the drug maker used a combination of tactics, such as falsifying medical records, misleading insurance companies and providing kickbacks to doctors in league with the company, to boost insurance company approvals of prescriptions of its fentanyl drug, Subsys.
In December, federal prosecutors in Boston criminally charged six former Insys executives, including its former CEO, with fraud and racketeering charges related to Subsys. Prosecutors described a "nationwide conspiracy to bribe medical practitioners to unnecessarily prescribe a fentanyl-based pain medication and defraud health care insurers."
In July, former Insys regional manager for the Southeast, Karen Hill, pled guilty in a related federal case in Alabama. She described in recorded conversations excerpted in court filings how she taught salespeople to entice doctors.