Opioid drug maker Insys settled a lawsuit for $4.5 million in which the state of Illinois, one of the regions in the US most affected by rising overdose deaths due to abuse of addictive opioid painkillers, accused the company of deceptive marketing - AFP
19 August 2017: Opioid drug maker Insys agreed to pay $4.5 million Friday to end a lawsuit in which it was accused of deceptive marketing, one of the first settlements of civil suits that drug manufacturers face over a US overdose epidemic.
The lawsuit was brought by the state of Illinois in the nation's Midwest -- among the hardest-hit regions dealing with rising overdose deaths stemming from abuse of addictive opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Dozens of US states, cities and municipalities have filed similar lawsuits, alleging that drug companies engaged in deceptive marketing practices and hid the addictive nature of their drugs.
Approximately two million Americans are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers, according to a 2014 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control.
Some addicts move on to drugs like heroin, which is much cheaper these days than painkillers, to feed their habit.
Ninety people per day die in the US of opioid overdoses, according to government figures. Illinois reported 2,278 drug overdose deaths in 2016.
Illinois accused Insys Therapeutics of falsely marketing the painkiller Subsys, which is considered more powerful than morphine and approved only for treatment of pain from cancer.
"Insys pushed a highly addictive opioid in complete disregard for patients' health to increase company profits," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who brought the lawsuit.
The state alleged the US-based company was inappropriately marketing its painkiller broadly as treatment for chronic conditions such as back and neck pain, and pushed doctors to prescribe higher and more expensive doses.
"It's unethical, greedy behavior by companies like Insys that is responsible for creating the opioid epidemic and resulting overdose deaths in our state," Madigan said in a statement.
In 2011, Insys similarly settled a lawsuit with the state of Oregon, agreeing to pay $1.1 million over its marketing of Subsys.
The company did not return requests for comment.