A woman from South Carolina who has struggled with opioid addiction is pursuing a Subsys lawsuit against Insys Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of the powerful fentanyl spray.
In an interview with Greenville’s 7News, Angela Cantone maintained that her fentanyl addiction came unknowingly, after her doctor prescribed Subsys Spray to help her manage pain stemming from a hip injury.
Cantone says she was never told that Subsys was not approved for her condition. The fentanyl spray, which is many times more powerful than morphine or heroin, is only approved to treat cancer patients suffering from intolerable levels of pain.
“I was just told that this is a great new medication that was going to give me a new lease on life,” Canton said.
“It wasn’t until after I stopped the medication that I found out what it was intended to treat,” she continued.
Cantone used Subsys Spray for two years.
“I was looking forward to when my medication would come each month,” Cantone said. “I physically could feel when I would go a day without the medication…While you’re in that cycle, you don’t see it as being addicted to something because you’re just living.”
Before long, Cantone says she was suffering side effects from the drug, including fainting and stroke-like episodes that would incapacitate an entire side of her body.
She had no idea that Subsys was behind her problems until another doctor suggested they could be drug related.
Now focused on staying sober, Cantone is suing Insys Pharmaceuticals, as well as the doctor who prescribed Subsys. Her complaint alleges that Insys targeted doctors who were not oncologists and paid them kickbacks (disguised as speaking fees) to prescribe Subsys to non-cancer patients.
Cantone’s doctor, Aathi Thiyaga, was one of the company’s highest paid speakers, earning more than $200,000 over a two-year period.
“They took good working individuals, good parents, good spouses, and turned them into drug addicts just to put money in their pockets,” Cantone said.
Her Subsys lawsuit seeks compensation for medical negligence, general negligence, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, common law fraud, a claim under the South Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, aiding and abetting, and loss of consortium.
Cantone is not alone in making these allegations.
Last month, the founder of Insys Pharmaceuticals was arrested on federal racketeering and conspiracy charges related to the marketing of Subsys Spray.
Federal prosecutors allege that John Kapoor and six former Insys executives conspired to bribe and pay kickbacks, including “speaker fees and honoraria for marketing events, food and entertainment” to doctors who wrote a large number of Subsys prescriptions, often for patients who did not have cancer.
Kapoor and the six executives have also been accused of conspiring to mislead and defraud health insurance providers reluctant to approve payment for the highly-addictive fentanyl spray when it was prescribed for non-cancer patients.
Following Kapoor’s arrest, Insys announced it was cooperating with the Department of Justice and had set aside $150 million for a possible settlement.
In August 2015, Insys agreed to pay $1.1 million to the state of Oregon to resolve allegations that it deceptively promoted Subsys spray for non-cancer conditions. A similar lawsuit was settled by the state of New Hampshire in January 2017. Several other states are pursuing their own Subsys Spray lawsuits.