byÂ Paul Resnikoff
Nobody knew that Prince was an addict. Â Then again, the drug Prince was taking â€” Fentanyl â€”Â was totally legal. Â Now, federal investigators are looking into the practices of a pharmaceuticals company sellingÂ that very drug.
It was a sad day in America, and it could have been prevented. Â Prince, an icon of modern pop music, passed away from a massive opioid overdose. Â The world quickly learned that Prince was addicted to Fentanyl, one of the most powerful drugs in the world. Â Yet that drug, which is 50 times more powerful than heroine,Â is completely legal with a prescription.
Fentanyl not only killed Prince, it has also killed tens of thousands of others. Â But who are the pharmaceutical companies pushing Fentanyl on addicted users?
Now, federal investigators are looking into one of the leading companies that distributes Fentanyl in the United States. Â In an investigatory piece published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, serious questions were asked ofÂ Insys Therapeutics, Inc.Â Thatâ€™s the worldâ€™s top manufacturer of a variant of Fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that makes heroine look like aspirin. Â And yet, itâ€™s 100% legal.
Already, two doctors over-prescribing the drug have been arrested. Â Alabama doctors John Couch and Xiulu Ruan sold a combined $4.9 million of fentanyl brand â€˜Subsysâ€™ in just two years, with massive kickbacks alleged from Insys. Â â€œInsys, based in Chandler, Ariz., went to unusual lengths to keep these high-prescribing doctors happy,â€ the Journal noted.
Enter Insys billionaire CEO John Kapoor, who is now being accusedÂ of bribing doctors to massively over-prescribe the killer opioid. Â Smaller doses were advancedÂ to bigger doses. Â Greater frequency and higher costs quickly followed. Â Insurers were handed lies about prospective patients to grant approvals.
It was a great strategy for making money, but also killing victims like Prince.
And all the while, fueling a growing black market for people to get the drug without a prescription. Â In fact, the statistics show that nearly 30,000 people die from Fentanyl overdoses a year, with every dose moving through a doctorâ€™s office at some point.
Prince wasnâ€™t specifically mentioned in the report. Â And at this late stage, it remains unclear where the singer sourced his drugs. Â No arrests have been made, though a network ofÂ friends using bogus prescriptions has been alleged. Â That suggests a rampant culture of over-prescribing, with little-to-no scrutiny of actual conditions.
Insys says its hands are clean, and denies bribing the doctors in question. Â But the Wall Street Journal outlined a cynical plan to push massive amounts of drugs to unwitting victims, most of whom plunged into addiction. Â Most werenâ€™t late-stage cancer patients, the intended target of the drug. Â â€œJust a handful of doctors, many with close ties to Insys, are responsible for outsize levels of prescribing of Subsys,â€ the Journal wrote, citingÂ government databases, court documents andÂ employee interviews.
â€œOf the top 20 physician-prescribers of Subsys to Medicare patients in 2014, more than half were also among the 20 largest recipients of consulting and other fees from Insys that year, a Journal analysis of recently released federal data shows.â€