Patty Nixon used to work for an Arizona-based drug company called Insys Therapeutics. Insys derives all of its profits from selling one specific drug. It’s a highly-addictive cancer medication known as Subsys. The painkiller is described as being 100 times more potent than morphine. Approved by the FDA for cancer patients who are enduring extreme amounts of pain, the drug has earned Insys nearly a billion dollars in sales over five years.
The problem with Subsys, reports Corky Siemaszko on MSN.com, is that it is constantly being sold to patients who don’t need it. Nixon left her job as an Insys sales representative due to her rising guilt stemming from lying on the job. As Siemaszko reveals, Nixon unveiled the web of lies she was encouraged by Insys to tell in an interview with NBC’s Senior Investigative Correspondent, Cynthia McFadden.
“My job responsibilities were to contact insurance companies on behalf of the patients and the doctors to get the medication approved and paid for by their insurance company,” Nixon said in her interview, noting that she was required to mention oncology records that didn’t exist and provide insurance companies with specific diagnosis codes even if the patients didn’t have those conditions.
“It was a complete bold-faced lie,” Nixon explains of her sales pitch. It’s a sales pitch, explains Siemaszko, that may have contributed to the death of Sarah Fuller. He writes that Fuller was prescribed Subsys even though she didn’t have a cancer. With an Insys sales rep sitting in the room with her doctor, Fuller was told to take Subsys for the chronic neck and back pain she suffered following two car accidents.
“Within a month, Fuller’s prescription was tripled,” details Siemaszko, “And 14 months after she started using the drug, she was found dead on a bathroom floor.” Fuller’s family is convinced that fentanyl – the ingredient that gives Subsys its “kick” – was responsible for her death. Siemaszko reveals that while Fuller’s doctor has had her license temporarily suspended, she denies responsibility for Fuller’s death.
Nixon, meanwhile, is heartbroken. Having felt forced to get Subsys into the hands of as many patients as possible, she now feels responsible for the pain and suffering the drug has caused so many families. To make things right, she has turned whistleblower, testifying before a federal grand jury that indicted former Insys CEO, Michael Babich and five other former executives on charges that include fraud, conspiracy and racketeering.
“For its part, Insys has denied any responsibility and insists it shouldn’t be blamed for how doctors prescribe their products,” reports Siemaszko, “The corporation is not facing criminal charges and is still selling Subsys — some $240 million worth of Subsys just last year. Meanwhile, Nixon says blowing the whistle on Insys has made her unable to find another job in her field. She said she continues to be racked with guilt over what she did as an Insys employee.”
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