PA Superior Court Reverses Risperdal Defense Verdict as Court Strikes Janssen Pharmaceuticals Only Favorable Jury Verdict

“Johnson & Johnson Hit With Another Trial Verdict Reversal”

By Mark York (November 17, 2017)

Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS) The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the single defense verdict reached in favor of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of anti-psychotic drug Risperdal. The reversal and order for a new trial stemmed from a 2015 trial that resulted in the one Risperdal defense verdict to date. The case is part of the mass tort docket for Risperdal cases in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, (see RISPERDAL Case No 296 PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS BRIEFCASE), where more than 6,000 Risperdal cases are pending.

The 22-page unanimous Superior Court decision by Judge Jack Panella, reversed the Janssen defense win in the Risperdal trial where plaintiff William Cirba filed suit against Janssen Pharmaceuticals and lost, as well the subsequent denial of Mr. Cirba’s request for a retrial based on “erroneous evidentiary rulings.”

The ruling ordered a new trial and will now be limited to the issues of causation and damages.

LAYPERSON AT TRIAL IS NOT AN EXPERT

The Superior Court stated the trial court made a reversible error at trial, by allowing physician’s assistant Michelle Baker’s testimony to be weighed on the same level as that of a medical expert. Ms. Baker was involved in the treatment of Mr. Cirba from 2005 to 2013, as a physician’s assistant.

During the Cirba trial, a videotaped deposition from Baker was played in which she stated an opinion that Cirba’s gynecomastia (the development of breast tissue) was the result of “extreme weight gain” rather than negative side effects from Risperdal. Cirba had been prescribed the drug to treat oppositional defiant disorder.

Cirba’s counsel objected that it was improper that Baker’s layperson testimony was considered equal to that of an expert, since she was not designated or qualified prior to trial – while the defense believed Baker’s deposition did not cross over into expert testimony and “constituted permissible lay opinion testimony, as it was rationally based on her perception of plaintiff during treatment.” Which the Superior Court has obviously disagreed with.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Janssen in March 2015, although the jury at that time believed Janssen failed to properly warn Cirba’s physicians of gynecomastia risks associated with Risperdal, it stopped short of finding Janssen negligent in directly causing Cirba’s gynecomastia.

The Superior Court sided with the plaintiff in believing admitting Baker’s testimony was an attempt to enter the realm of expert knowledge.

Defendants’ experts opined that weight gain rather than Risperdal ingestion caused plaintiff to appear to have gynecomastia. Baker’s testimony, in which she opined that plaintiff’s weight gain, rather than his Risperdal usage, caused him to appear to have gynecomastia, was causation testimony offered by a witness who personally treated the plaintiff” Panella said.

Panella added Baker’s opinion was “offered without the proper vetting and safeguards surrounding expert testimony.”

“Further, this opinion was introduced into evidence due to the trial court’s improper application of the law, which is clearly an abuse of discretion. Therefore, we find that the trial court abused its discretion in denying plaintiff’s request for a new trial, limited to the issues of causation and damages,” the panel stated, in reversing the judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.

SAME PANEL STRIKES RISPERDAL SOL CLAIMS

In a separate 18-page ruling also issued Nov. 13, the exact same three-judge panel upheld the trial court’s striking down of arguments that the statute of limitations in two Risperdal cases, featuring plaintiffs Jonathan Saksek and Joshua Winter, should have been tolled until 2013.

Saksek and Winter were prescribed Risperdal in 1997 and 1998, allegedly began developing gynecomastia in 1998 and 2002, respectively, but didn’t file suit until 2014. Both plaintiffs brought suit after seeing television advertising connected to Risperdal litigation in 2013.

The defense agreed with the trial court that the statute of limitations mandated the grant of summary judgment, but contended if the discovery rule applied, it would have only tolled the statute of limitations until October 2006, when Risperdal’s prescribing label was changed to include a warning about gynecomastia.

In January 2015, Judge Arnold New granted a defense motion for summary judgment and ruled an applicable statute of limitations applied to both Saksek and Winter’s cases, feeling that they should have known of Risperdal’s gynecomastia-related injury risks by June 30, 2009.

Both plaintiffs appealed, and the appeals were consolidated, but the higher court agreed with the trial court.

“Plaintiffs were aware of their injuries when they began experiencing unexplained weight gain – and breast growth – after starting Risperdal treatment in 1998 and 2002. However, from 1998 and 2002 until 2013, when plaintiffs were notified of the commercial claiming a link between gynecomastia and Risperdal, they did nothing to uncover the cause of their unexplained breast growth and weight gain. Plaintiff cannot hope to establish that they acted with reasonable diligence, when they admit that they failed to act at all,” Panella stated.

Their breasts were there, and had been there, for years. And then, in October 2006, the label on Risperdal changed, expressly linking usage of the drug to gynecomastia. Their breasts were clearly not temporary by 2006. Accordingly, by that date, ‘reasonable minds would not differ in finding that’ plaintiffs knew, or should have known, of their injuries and the cause of those injuries by this point,” Panella added.

RULING AFFECTS OTHER CASES

Kline commented on the Superior Court’s statute of limitations ruling, indicating it could be far-reaching beyond merely the instant cases.

“We believe [this] harsh ruling, which may bar the claims of thousands of claimants who could not possibly have known of their gynecomastia injury and its cause, is legally and factually wrong. We plan to appeal further, seeking to reopen the courthouse doors to them,” Kline said.

Janssen’s stated:  “We are pleased the Superior Court affirmed Judge New’s ruling on the application of statute of limitations.

MASS TORT DOCKET GROWING

More than 6,400 Risperdal lawsuits – most from out-of-state plaintiffs – will be handled in Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center. The CLC has several mass tort programs, including cases over Xarelto  (See Case No. 2349 in Philadephia Court of Common Pleas – Complex Litigation PA State Court) and asbestos, and the percentage of claims belonging to out-of-state plaintiffs has traditionally been in the high 80s. In 2016, the percentage for pharmaceutical lawsuits dropped to 74 percent.

However, in 2017, the most recent CLC stats show that figure has jumped to an unprecedented 94 percent.

Appeal Docket: Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 2451 EDA 2015 & 576 EDA 2015

Trial Docket: Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 130301803, 140200183 & 140301170

 

 

 

Read More

Targeting Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns

The Major Focus Across The USA is Now Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns

Mark A. York (November 3, 2017)

(Mass Tort Nexus) A bipartisan group of states and their attorneys general have started massive joint investigations into the marketing and sales practices of drug companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. These drug makers are the largest in the country and are considered at the center of the current national addiction epidemic. This includes the executive suite and boardrooms of all opiate manufacturers, as the policy and direction for the massive growth in opiate prescriptions could not have gone unnoticed by executives at the opiate drug makers, for close to 15 years. Record earnings, bonuses and SEC filings all point to “boardroom knowledge” of ever increasing opiate focused sales efforts.

The state actions are now parallel to the “Motion for Consolidation in “The Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804” , filed with the Joint Panel for Multidistrict Litigation. MDL 2804 is set for a Consolidation Motion Hearing before the JMPL panel in St. Louis,  MO on November 30, 2017, where numerous Midwest counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia as well as the city of Birmingham, Alabama joined together to file suit against the 3 largest distributors of opiates in the country, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. Also named in the suit are the primary Big Pharma opiate manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo, Teva and others as additional defendants.

Attorney Generals from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri and Pennsylvania have launched full investigations, following the lead of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks of opioids. Other states are also beginning the review of opioid manufacturers and will decide if they are joining the others in filing legal claims.

“We are looking into the role of marketing and how related corporate business practices might have played into increasing prescriptions and use of these powerful and addictive drugs,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Its currently unclear exactly how many states are involved in the probe, though officials said a majority of attorneys general are part of the coalition. Among those leading the probe is Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Republican.

Officials did not specify which companies were under investigation, but suffice it to say, any company that made and marketed opioids products over the last 10 years will be scrutinized.

Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Separate lawsuits by attorneys general in Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey and Mississippi, are pursuing opioid-related cases as of September 2017, with many more following suit very soon. They are have targeting Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N), Endo International Plc(ENDP.O), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and Allergan Plc(AGN.N) as well as leaving the door open to add additional defendants, based on the information revealed in the ongoing multi-state investigations.

New Jersey recently filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc over marketing scheme for its Fentanyl product known as “Subsys”, and the massive off-label marketing campaign for uses other than FDA approved “cancer pain” treatments. The entire executive board of Insys was indicted in December 2016, along with many of its sales staff and numerous doctors across the country, with at least to physicians being sentenced to 20 years in prison by the US District Court in Alabama. See Insys Therapeutics, Inc Executives Indicted Over Fentanyl Sales Campaign.

Teva in a statement said on Thursday it is “committed to the appropriate promotion and use of opioids.” Representatives for the other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The companies have denied wrongdoing, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved their products as safe and effective and saying that they carried warning labels that disclosed their risks. The specific allegation focus more on “off label” and doctor targeting and marketing practices that repeatedly encouraged over-writing of opiate prescriptions for patients with minimal pain issues.

In announcing his office’s lawsuit in May 2017, Ohio Attorney General DeWine said the drug companies helped unleash the crisis by spending millions of dollars marketing and promoting such drugs as Purdue’s OxyContin, without consideration of the long term effects of the related addiction, which Purdue was absolutely aware of throughout the years of profits that now total billions of dollars.

The lawsuit said the drug companies disseminated misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids as part of a marketing scheme aimed at persuading doctors and patients that drugs should be used for chronic rather than short-term pain.  Pain centers and medical practices across the country started writing an ever increasing number of high dose opioid prescriptions for what would be considered low to mid-level pain treatment.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including those in several California counties, as well as the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Dayton, Ohio, three Tennessee district attorneys, and nine New York counties have also filed individual suits.

It is unknown at this time, if all of the legal actions filed by governmental entities across the country will be consolidated into MDL 2804, which may be the most effective way to manage the soon to be massive number of legal claims against Big Pharma and their long term opiate profit centers. Municipalities across the country seeking to recoup the enormous financial losses brought on by the opioid crisis.

Read More

Nuedexta: The Drug Being Pushed “Off-Label” On The Elderly In Nursing Homes

“PROFITS OVER PATIENTS IN THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY CONTINUES“

By Mark A. York (October 19, 2017)

Mass Tort Nexus

Avanir Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Nuedexta, a prescription drug approved to treat a rare neurological condition is earning hundreds of millions of dollars a year  by aggressively targeting elderly nursing home residents in “off-label” use, for whom the drug may be unnecessary and now recognized as unsafe. Off-label use is when a company offers and markets a drug for reasons other than what it was initially approved for by the FDA.

The vast majority of the “off-label” related payments to nursing homes are coming straight from the federal government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pill, called Nuedexta, (dextromethorphan hydrobromide and quinidine sulfate), is approved to treat a disorder marked by sudden and uncontrollable laughing or crying — known as pseudobulbar affect, or PBA. This condition afflicts less than 1% of all Americans, based on a calculation using the drugmaker’s own figures, and it is most commonly associated with people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Nuedexta’s financial success, however, is being propelled by a sales force focused on expanding the drug’s use among elderly patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and high-volume prescribing and advocacy efforts by doctors receiving payments from the company.

An example is a nursing facility patient, Lenore Greenfield was diagnosed with PBA and prescribed Nuedexta by California psychiatrist Romeo Isidro, a physician who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in promotional payments from Avanir.

Since 2012, more than half of all Nuedexta pills have gone to long-term care facilities. The number of pills rose to roughly 14 million in 2016, a jump of nearly 400% in just four years, according to data obtained from QuintilesIMS, which tracks pharmaceutical sales with total sales of Nuedexta reaching almost $300 million that year.

NUEDEXTA OFF-LABEL” USE UNDER REVIEW

Nuedexta is being increasingly prescribed in nursing homes even though drugmaker Avanir Pharmaceuticals acknowledges in prescribing information that the drug has not been extensively studied in elderly patients — prompting critics to liken its use to an uncontrolled experiment. The one study the company conducted solely on patients with Alzheimer’s (a type of dementia) had 194 subjects and found that those on Nuedexta experienced falls at more than twice the rate as those on a placebo.

Avanir declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this article. In an emailed statement, the company said PBA is often “misunderstood” and that the condition can affect people with dementia and other neurological disorders, which are common among residents in long-term care facilities. A company website states PBA can afflict up to roughly 40% of dementia patients — a figure that is based on an Avanir-funded survey and was repeatedly disputed by medical experts, including some of those paid by Avanir.

Nuedexta is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat anyone with PBA, including those with a variety of neurological conditions such as dementia. But geriatric physicians, dementia researchers and other medical experts told CNN that PBA is extremely rare in dementia patients; several said it affects 5% or less. And state regulators have found doctors inappropriately diagnosing nursing home residents with PBA to justify using Nuedexta to treat patients whose confusion, agitation and unruly behavior make them difficult to manage.

“There has to be a diagnosis for every drug prescribed, and that diagnosis has to be real … it cannot be simply made up by a doctor,” said Kathryn Locatell, a geriatric physician who helps the California Department of Justice investigate cases of elder abuse in nursing homes. “There is little to no medical literature to support the drug’s use in nursing home residents (with dementia) — the population apparently being targeted.”

There are now confirmed instances of dozens of cases across the country since 2013 in which state nursing home inspectors questioned the use of Nuedexta.

In a Los Angeles nursing home last year, regulators found that more than a quarter of its residents — 46 of 162 — had been placed on Nuedexta, noting that a facility psychiatrist had given a talk about the drug to employees. This psychiatrist was a paid speaker for Avanir.

At another facility in 2015, also in Southern California, an employee admitted to inspectors that a resident had been given a diagnosis of PBA to “somehow justify the use” of Nuedexta, even though its intended purpose was to control the resident’s “mood disturbances” and yelling out.

And an Ohio doctor paid by Avanir has come under government investigation for allegedly receiving kickbacks for prescribing the drug and fraudulently diagnosing patients with PBA in order to secure Medicare coverage — though the doctor has denied any wrongdoing.

The federal government foots the bill for a big portion of the money being spent on Nuedexta in the form of Medicare Part D prescription drug funding, for people 65 and over and the disabled. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, this Medicare program spent $138 million on Nuedexta — up more than 400% from just three years earlier.

Medicare is supposed to pay for drug uses that have been proven safe and effective for the population they are intended to treat or that have been otherwise supported by a specific collection of medical research. Nuedexta is currently only approved by the FDA for patients who have PBA. So experts say that Medicare coverage of the drug, which has been crucial to its financial success, relies on the diagnosis of this single condition. So-called “off-label” prescribing, in which doctors use the drug to treat patients who have not been diagnosed with PBA, would typically not be covered, however there is a massive trend in Big pharma the last few years to increase revenues by pushing off-label” use in most every drug in major pharmaceutical maker inventories.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) declined to comment on the growing use of Nuedexta in nursing homes.

Thousands of the doctors prescribing Nuedexta have received money, or at least a meal, from its maker — a legal but controversial practice in the industry. Between 2013 and 2016, Avanir and its parent company, Otsuka, paid doctors nearly $14 million for Nuedexta-related consulting, promotional speaking and other services, according to government data. The companies also spent $4.6 million on travel and dining costs, both for speakers and for doctors being targeted by salespeople.

Research has shown thata that nearly 50% of the Nuedexta claims filed with Medicare in 2015 came from doctors who had received money or other perks from the company (ranging from a few dollars’ worth of food or drink to hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct payments).

Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to pay a doctor to promote a drug to colleagues and other medical professionals. It is illegal, however, for doctors to prescribe the drug in exchange for kickback payments from a manufacturer.

Several of these paid advocates of Nuedexta argue that PBA manifests differently depending on the person. With dementia patients, they say, the typical crying or laughing outbursts seen in multiple sclerosis patients may be absent. Instead, symptoms may include moaning, wailing, hitting a wheelchair over and over again or repeating the same phrase. And they are adamant that the medication can be life-changing for patients, touting how safe and benign it is.

“I never hear, ‘hey doc, we put a patient on this and had really bad side effects,'” said Jason Kellogg, a geriatric psychiatrist who sees patients at nursing homes across California. Kellogg has received $612,000 in payments, meals and travel from Avanir and its parent company between 2013 and 2016, according to government data. He was a top Medicare prescriber for the drug in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

Kellogg, who said he was involved in early company testing of the drug for PBA, said Nuedexta is “such a blessing in psychiatry.”

“In our treatments, we don’t have many meds that are well tolerated, and I would hate if someone took that away from me,” he said.

CONCERN BY DOCTORS RAISED DURING FDA APPROVAL

During the FDA approval process, two key doctors on the committee raised concerns about Nuedexta being used for PBA in Alzheimer’s patients. They both strongly recommended that Nuedexta only be approved for PBA in patients with MS or ALS. They argued that evidence it would be effective in other conditions was “weak,” that not enough was known about the safety of the drug in the elderly, and that it was unclear that PBA even existed in Alzheimer’s patients. Despite these concerns, the agency approved Nuedexta in 2010 for treating PBA in patients who have neurological conditions such as dementia.

Soon after Nuedexta hit the market in 2011, doctors, nurses and family members began filing reports of potential harm — ranging from rashes, dizziness and falls to comas and death. Nuedexta was listed as a “suspect” medication in nearly 1,000 so-called adverse event reports received by the FDA detailing side effects, drug interactions and other issues, CNN found. While the FDA uses these voluntary reports to monitor potential issues with a drug, a report does not mean that a suspected medication has been ruled the cause of the harm.

The FDA declined to comment on these adverse events or the concerns raised about Nuedexta during the approval process. But it did say that after any drug is approved, the agency continues to review safety information from a variety of sources (including adverse event data) and will take action as needed — such as updating a medication’s label, restricting its use or even taking it off the market entirely.

USC DIRECTOR WARNING

Lon Schneider, director of the University of Southern California’s California Alzheimer’s Disease Center, reviewed information from roughly 500 of the reports through a Freedom of Information Act request. Schneider, a physician specializing in geriatric and dementia care, said he was concerned about the problems stemming from potential interactions between Nuedexta and other powerful medications intended to treat problematic behaviors.

He warned that given how medicated the elderly typically are, adding just one more pill — especially one that hasn’t been extensively tested — could be dangerous.

REPORTS TO FDA BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

One report filed by a nurse practitioner in 2015 detailed the rapid decline of an 86-year-old Alzheimer’s patient after Nuedexta was added to the psychotropic medications she took including Zoloft (an antidepressant), Xanax (an antianxiety drug) and Risperidone (an antipsychotic). Nuedexta had been prescribed to treat PBA and “weeping with underlying Alzheimer’s dementia.”

Almost immediately, the woman experienced weakness and fatigue to the point that she was barely able to talk and was described as being “almost unresponsive.” The dose of Nuedexta was increased, and her symptoms worsened. The drug was discontinued about a week later, but she failed to recover. She remained unable to eat or drink and her kidneys failed — ultimately leading to her death.

“The patient seemed to be doing fine,” the nurse practitioner reported, “until she was placed on Nuedexta.”

AGGRESSIVE SALES FORCE

The combination of two generic drugs that makes up Nuedexta — a cough suppressant and heart medication — was once available from specialty pharmacists willing to combine the ingredients for less than $1 a pill, according to a US Senate report on rising prescription drug prices.

Now the FDA-approved medication costs as much as $12.60 a pill, wholesale pricing data from First Databank shows. That can add up to more than $9,000 a year, though the amount a patient actually pays depends on factors including individual insurance coverage. Medicare Part D spending on the drug averaged $3,400 per patient in 2015.

It is Avanir’s main product and biggest moneymaker. It has gained attention with the public through its television commercial featuring actor Danny Glover seesawing between laughter and tears. And it was this drug’s financial potential that attracted Japanese pharmaceutical giant Otsuka to the boutique California firm, purchasing Avanir for $3.5 billion several years ago. Otsuka declined to comment for this story.

Avanir investor documents have stated that only a small fraction — 100,000 of the 1.8 million patients suffering from moderate to severe PBA — live in long-term care facilities. Yet the company has described nursing homes as key to its growth.

On a 2013 earnings call, Rohan Palekar, a top executive who eventually became CEO but is no longer with the company, said Avanir had “just scratched the surface of its full potential” in nursing homes, according to an online transcript. He said the company aimed to get Nuedexta prescribed in far more facilities. Palekar did not respond to requests for comment.

To rack up these prescriptions, salespeople identified doctors, nurses and pharmacists who could serve as advocates for the drug, according to interviews with former Avanir employees and internal documents and emails reviewed by CNN. Salespeople then worked closely with these advocates to identify potential patients. In one case, a salesperson worked with a doctor’s office manager to pull patients’ charts, identify those who should be screened for PBA and make sure that Nuedexta brochures were inserted in their files. The sales force also coached doctors and facility employees on how to fight for Medicare coverage of the drug if it was initially refused.

Federal laws restrict the tactics pharmaceutical sales representatives can use to sell a medication. They can’t give favor or payments in exchange for a doctor prescribing the drug. They can’t have any contact with private patient records, without the patient’s consent. And they can’t promote use of a drug off-label, in a way that hasn’t been approved by the FDA.

Internal company emails have shown a culture filled with intense pressure to get the drug sold and how Avanir sales representatives were encouraged to directly target dementia and Alzheimer’s patients — a practice which is legal as long as these patients also had PBA.

In an email from several years ago, one of the company’s regional managers, Kevin Tiffany, bluntly urged his salespeople to spend “99.9 percent” of their time focused on such patients.

Devoting time to other conditions more commonly associated with PBA amounted to “diluting your chances,” wrote Tiffany, a senior sales manager in California.

“Give yourself the best chance to win,” Tiffany added.

Tiffany, who no longer works for Avanir, declined to comment through an attorney.

Other emails from managers show how the government’s crackdown on dangerous antipsychotic drugs — which were once widely used to control unruly and erratic behavior in nursing home patients — created an opportunity for Avanir.

After receiving the FDA’s most severe “black box” warning for an increased risk of death in elderly dementia patients, antipsychotics are now closely monitored by government regulators, who penalize and lower the ratings of facilities that overuse them. Internal company communications show Avanir salespeople were directed to specifically target facilities that historically used high levels of antipsychotic medications — facilities that would see Nuedexta as an attractive alternative.

Some of these tactics employed by Avanir salespeople cross into ethical gray areas, said medical ethicists and other experts who were read the emails and sales training documents or provided with details from them.

“It definitely feels like it is too much in the business of prescribing and not in the business of conveying information,” said Michael Santoro, a Santa Clara University professor and an expert in pharmaceutical industry ethics.”It feels like (the salespeople) are actually participating in the prescribing decision.”

In its statement, Avanir said that the company was committed to “an ethical culture,” uses methods “that are consistent with the law” and that its goal is “to give doctors truthful, accurate and balanced information so they can decide on the proper treatment for their patients.”

Avanir executives have long touted plans for securing FDA approval for Nuedexta’s use to treat dementia patients who don’t have PBA — setting their sights on the more widespread condition of agitation in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, characterized by emotional and physical outbursts and restless behaviors. The company announced clinical trials for testing a version of the medication for this use in 2015, but those have not yet been completed. Without additional FDA approval for the drug’s use in those conditions, salespeople cannot promote Nuedexta for that purpose. They can only market its use for dementia patients who also have PBA.

There are currently no FDA-approved drugs for treating dementia-related agitation, and other drug makers have been penalized for marketing drugs for this use. Abbott Laboratories Inc., for instance, pleaded guilty in 2012 to illegally marketing an anticonvulsant called Depakote in nursing homes as a way to control agitated and aggressive dementia patients. But the drug had only been approved for treating seizures, bipolar disorder and migraines. The company ultimately paid a total of $1.6 billion in civil and criminal penalties.

Those who care for the elderly remain eager for tools to manage these behaviors, however. Some caregivers say investments in increased staffing can reduce the need for medications. But such measures are expensive and don’t always work, so some facilities opt for pharmaceutical solutions that can help make their many patients easier to treat.”Rather than taking someone off an antipsychotic” and opting to treat the patient in ways that don’t require medication, “providers search for a different ‘magic bullet,'” said Helen Kales, a geriatric psychiatrist and University of Michigan professor.

NURSING FACILITIES PUSHED “OFF-LABLE” USE

In one case, the executive director of a California assisted living facility tried to push Nuedexta on a dementia patient to address her “aggressive” behavior, according to emails reviewed by CNN. The director at the facility, Oakmont of Mariner Point in Alameda, California, told the patient’s son, Jason Laveglia, that the medication wasn’t an antipsychotic and threatened to evict his mother if she wasn’t put on the medication.

“(I)f her behavior cannot be muted through prescription means, I would have no choice but to pursue delivering a 30-day eviction notice,” Joan Riordan wrote to Laveglia last year.

Laveglia turned to the state for help, and by the time officials investigated weeks later, Riordan no longer worked at the facility. Social service officials ultimately found that her eviction attempt had violated state law. A spokesperson for the facility would not comment on the state’s findings, but said it “does not endorse or recommend Nuedexta nor any other medication” and that staff should not be involved in medical decisions.

Riordan disputed the idea that her emails served as an official eviction notice. Riordan, who is not a doctor, said that she had recommended Nuedexta after learning about the medication from a local psychiatrist and had seen it help a number of other aggressive dementia patients without the dangers and sedative effects of an antipsychotic.

“I’ve seen it just work wonders with people,” she said. “It was the only intervention I could come up with. We needed to do something not only for her own benefit, but also for the people around her.”

When asked whether her residents had PBA, Riordan told CNN she had never heard of the condition and had no knowledge of whether they had received such a diagnosis.

RED FLAGS RAISED

Across the country, the use of Nuedexta in nursing homes has prompted concerns among state regulators whose job is to ensure adherence to federal guidelines and protect residents from being given unnecessary drugs — especially those used as chemical restraints. But to date, the red flags raised by these regulators have been largely left buried in nursing home inspection reports and have drawn little public attention.

There have been more than 80 cases in 19 states since 2013 where inspectors cited nursing homes for inappropriate monitoring and use of Nuedexta — often because residents hadn’t exhibited any symptoms of PBA. Many of the cases — about 40% — were clustered in Southern California, where Avanir is based and where former employees said there has been aggressive marketing.

At the Montrose Healthcare Center near Los Angeles, three nursing home residents were given Nuedexta without a doctor’s prescription or approval, according to one inspection report. All were cognitively impaired. One was known to call out for help, while another would cry when their family left the facility. But employees acknowledged that they had never seen the residents laugh or cry involuntarily — the hallmark indicators of PBA.

Regulators learned of these prescriptions in 2015, after a family member discovered that her relative was receiving Nuedexta without her consent. While researching the medication, she learned it could be dangerous for her family member because of other medications she took for a serious heart condition.

The doctors for all three residents denied ever prescribing Nuedexta. State investigators later discovered nursing staff had obtained the prescriptions without a doctor’s approval, which they are not authorized to do. They also found that at least two nurses at the facility had attended a sales seminar about Nuedexta, where they were given a doctor’s sample prescription for the medication. The facility said in a statement that it had addressed the concerns raised by the state inspection report and suggested that outside pressure had been at play.

“Our Center does not condone the pressuring of nurses by pharmaceutical reps and physicians to favor certain medications,” the facility said. “Should they feel pressured to administer medications they do not feel are appropriate, our nurses can and should bring it to our immediate attention so we may assist them in advocating for their patients.”

In New Jersey, St. Vincent’s Healthcare and Rehab Center was cited by regulators last year because six residents were prescribed Nuedexta even though no symptoms of PBA had been documented. A representative of the facility has now stated “we take a close look at all medications prescribed to ensure appropriate use.”

DRUG TREATMENT NOT NEEDED

One resident in the report told the facility’s psychiatrist there was a legitimate reason for their sadness: “All I really want is a companion. I am lonely.” In the case of another resident given the medication, a nurse said the resident’s crying was an expression of frustration, and that this had improved with a change in routine.

Two other residents at the facility were originally prescribed Nuedexta for “Dementia with Behaviors.”

Those diagnoses were then crossed out or rewritten — replaced with “PBA.”

THE DRUG PUSHERS

At first, Alex Carington couldn’t figure out why her 85-year-old mother, Lenore Greenfield, was on Nuedexta, a pill Carington had never heard of. A psychiatrist had prescribed the medication after visiting the elderly woman in her Los Angeles nursing home while she was sleeping, Carington said. Even when the drug appeared to do nothing to ease her mother’s sadness, confusion or emotional outbursts as she battled dementia, she said the doctor kept her on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Carington’s mother, now 88, is no longer on Nuedexta and lives at a new nursing home. But Carington still questions why she was prescribed the pill in the first place.

“Something about this whole thing made me think money was behind it,” Carington, who lived near her mother’s facility and visited her often, wrote at the time in an online comment on the blog of a psychiatrist who had questioned Nuedexta’s aggressive advertising.

As she began to look into her mother’s doctor, she discovered he had received more than $100,000 from Avanir in just over a year.

Outraged, she finally got her mother taken off Nuedexta for good. Now, around two years later, she is in a new nursing home and Carington believes she is doing much better.

Her mother’s doctor was Romeo Isidro, a speaker for Avanir and one of the physicians paid the most by the drugmaker. Between 2013 and 2016, Isidro received more than $500,000 in payments, travel and meals from Avanir and its parent company. According to internal company documents, he was an advocate for Nuedexta as early as 2012, the year after it hit the market.

ISIDRO HAD 100 PATIENTS AT 11 FACILITIES ON NUEDEXTRA

In Avanir training documents, a California salesperson explained how he worked to get Isidro to prescribe Nuedexta. Now a senior sales manager at the company, Chris Burch wrote in 2012 that he and his colleague saw or spoke to Isidro about twice a week — regularly calling and texting him, and visiting him at both his office and nursing homes. Burch wrote that Isidro was at first skeptical about the condition of PBA, but after he successfully used Nuedexta to treat possible symptoms of it in one patient, he became more comfortable prescribing the medication. Burch then explained how he had directly targeted facilities where Isidro worked, finding employees who could serve as “advocate(s)” to help identify potential Nuedexta candidates for Isidro.

SALES MANAGEMENT CAMPAIGN

“He is now a speaker and I ask him to advocate in his facilities, corporate facilities, and (to) other psychiatrists, internists and pharmacies,” Burch, who did not respond to requests for comment, wrote in a form used by the company to track certain prescribers.

Attempts to contact Dr. Isidro directly were by phone and at his office, where investigators saw two stacks of PBA and Nuedexta pamphlets sat on a table in the waiting room. He declined to be interviewed but ultimately provided a written statement saying that he had “never prescribed medication for financial incentives” and that he prescribes Nuedexta to patients who he has properly diagnosed with PBA.

He also wrote about the first success he had seen with the drug, and how it helped him wean an elderly patient off of dangerous psychotropic medications — noting that her inappropriate crying and screaming symptoms reminded him of a visit from a Nuedexta representative who had told him about PBA. He said Avanir approached him about becoming a speaker, and that he agreed in order to share his first-hand experience with the medication — not to promote it.

“Since learning about PBA, I have become more skilled at recognizing it in my patients, which would in turn produce increased numbers of patients on Nuedexta,” he wrote. “I am not an advocate for a particular drug or pharmaceutical companies. I am an advocate for my patients and their families.”

In response to questions about Carington’s mother, he said he couldn’t comment on specific patients but that memories are not “infallible.” He urged third parties to substantiate any claims with medical records about her case. Ms. Carington has provided her mother’s records to invesitigators, which confirmed that Isidro had diagnosed her with PBA and prescribed her Nuedexta, which she remained on for months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PHARMACIST PUSHING OFF-LABEL USE FOR FEES

A different speaker paid by Avanir, a pharmacist in northern California, appeared to suggest during a 2012 presentation that doctors could broaden the use of Nuedexta when prescribing, according to an audio recording obtained by CNN. A person in attendance, who recorded the event, identified the pharmacist as Flora Brahmbhatt.

“I’m definitely pushing this a little bit, perhaps considered off label … but maybe it’s effective on some of the other behaviors too that we find challenging,” the pharmacist said in her presentation, which was sponsored by Avanir. “There are certain nursing home chains, specifically in Southern California, that are saying, ‘Hey, if you have somebody with dementia that has a behavior issue, try them on Nuedexta before you put them on a psychotropic (medication.)’ It’s a little aggressive, I’ll say that. But CMS isn’t making it easy for us to use antipsychotics anymore.”

She went on to discuss how a PBA diagnosis was essential for the medication to be “covered by insurance and not be off-label,” as well as how PBA’s definition of inappropriate laughing and crying could be interpreted by physicians. At one point, she told an Avanir employee in the room that they could cover their ears.

Followed by “We don’t have anybody from the FDA in here. I’m telling you … you can extrapolate that to mean any kind of socially inappropriate behavior when you’ve ruled out other causes,” she said. “If they have an episodic behavior and they have an underlying neurological condition, you can pretty much come up with a diagnosis.”

When she was contacted about the event and asked about the recorded statements, Brahmbhatt said she hadn’t given presentations about Nuedexta for many years. She said she didn’t give permission to be recorded and didn’t recall making those statements. “I don’t know if I said this stuff,” she said. “It was five years ago, at best.” She was read several of the quotes from the recording but declined to listen to it. An attorney representing Brahmbhatt has said that Brahmbhatt denies making the statements in the audio recording. This is normal operating procedure for someone who’s discovered to be promoting off-label” use, they klawyer up and wait to see if there’s an invesitigation.

Former FDA investigator Larry Stevens, who now works for the consulting firm The FDA Group, said it is a violation of federal law for a paid speaker to promote a drug for anything other than its FDA-approved use.

Yet another paid speaker, the Ohio physician accused of accepting kickbacks in exchange for prescribing Nuedexta, has been under government investigation. Internal Avanir documents show Cleveland neurologist Deepak Raheja was a top prescriber of the drug from the beginning, in 2011. Between 2013 and 2016, he received $289,000 in payments, meals and travel.

In addition to allegedly accepting kickbacks, Raheja is accused of fraudulently diagnosing patients with PBA in order to secure Medicare coverage for off-label use and increasing dosages of Nuedexta beyond what is recommended, according to a letter obtained by CNN. The letter, circulated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in January, alerted insurance providers that work with Medicare about the fraud allegations so that they could take “appropriate measures.”

Medicare officials said the agency could not comment on pending or active investigations. When contacted by CNN, Raheja denied that he had received kickbacks or been involved in any kind of Medicare fraud in his 25 years of practice. Raheja also said he no longer prescribes Nuedexta.

This is another article in the ongoing Mass Tort Nexus series of strategic “Off-Label” marketing by Big Pharma and other healthcare industry companies, putting profits over patients.

Read More

Jury Finds AbbVie Misrepresented Risks of AndroGel and Awards $140 Million in Second Low-T Bellwether Trial

“AbbVie, Inc. Misrepresented Risks of AndroGel and Jury Awards $140 Million in 2nd AndroGel Low-T Trial”

By Mark A. York (October 17, 2017

Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AbbVie loses again, a jury in Chicago ordered AbbVie, Inc. to pay more than $140 million on October 5, 2017 to a man who claimed the company misrepresented the risks of its testosterone replacement drug AndroGel prescribed for Low-T, causing him to suffer a heart attack. This is the second major loss for AbbVie in the AndroGel related MDL 2545, (Testosterone Replacement Therapy MDL 2545 Briefcase) in front of Judge Matthew Kennelly, US District Court ND Illinois, this verdict follows the July 24, 2017 verdict of $150 million in the first trial.

The verdict, handed down in federal court in Chicago, came in a lawsuit filed by Tennessee resident Jeffrey Konrad and his wife, the suit was filed in 2015. It is the second verdict against AbbVie to come out of more than 6,000 additional lawsuits against AbbVie and other companies consolidated in the Chicago court in front of Judge Kennelly. Kennelly is a long-term judge, who’s not prone to judicial errors or permitting either side in cases to stray outside the fairly conservative courtroom standards Kennelly is known for, which also relates directly to any AbbVie appeals and post-trial maneuvering.

Chicago-based AbbVie said in a statement “We are disappointed with today’s verdict and we intend to appeal,” With thousands more cases pending, AbbVie may need to look at changing legal strategy or to begin thinking settlement. The juries have stated that the company misled consumers via fraudulent misrepresentation in the “off-label” marketing campaign, which included urging men to their testosterone levels checked.

This verdict was comprised of $140 million in punitive damages, intended to deter the defendant and others from engaging in similar behavior, and $140,000 in compensatory damages, sending a message to not only AbbVie, but other Big Pharma drug makers, that consumers are now becoming aware of manipulation of prescription drug use behind the scenes via marketing campaigns including massive television advertisements.

SECOND BELLWETHER LOSS FOR ABBVIE

Konrad’s case is part of a series of bellwether trials aimed at helping plaintiffs and manufacturers of AndroGel gauge the range of damages and define a legal strategy and settlement options., losing both of the initial bellwether trials doesn’t look good for the defense, see “ANDROGEL” JURY RETURNS $150 MILLION VERDICT IN 1st TESTOSTERONE TRIAL.  That jury’s decision to award punitive damages without granting compensatory damages was unusual and both sides continue to fight over the verdict’s validity in court, but shows that the plaintiffs seem to have viable claims at trial.

Plaintiffs across the country allege AndroGel has caused heart attacks, strokes and other injuries, and the company was aware of the increase in adverse events while marketing “off-label” use. AbbVie has defended the drug and responded that its marketing of AndroGel adhered strictly to uses approved by the Food and Drug Administration and they have remained in full compliance with all FDA standards.

Konrad, 56, had been using AndroGel for two months in 2010 when he suffered a heart attack, from which he has since recovered. In court pleadings, the company contended that Konrad’s heart attack was caused by other factors, which are are not related to being prescribed AndroGel, such as obesity and high blood pressure. It also said it made no misrepresentations about AndroGel’s safety, which now two juries have disagreed with to the tune of $290 million.

ANDROGEL WAS A BLOCKBUSTER FROM FIRST RELEASE

AbbVie’s AndroGel is one of the more dominant testosterone treatments In the ever growing Low-T market, with sales of $675 million in 2016, and was declared a blockbuster drug and moved earnings and shares higher as soon as AndroGel hit the market. However, there were concerns about the drug safety as far back as 2012 and the FDA took notice not long thereafter. In 2014, the FDA convened an advisory committee to consider the adverse cardiovascular outcomes associated with testosterone replacement therapy, and the committee recommended changing the product warning labels, the FDA then required AbbVie to add a warning about cardiovascular risk to AndroGel’s label in May 2015.

Read More

States Across The Country Are Targeting Big Pharma and Their Opiate Marketing Campaigns

Is Big Pharma The Target of Litigation Modeled After Tobacco Litigation?  

Mark A. York,  October 6, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Mass Tort Nexus) A bipartisan group of states and their attorneys general have started massive joint investigations into the marketing and sales practices of drug companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. These drug makers are the largest in the country and are considered at the center of the current national addiction epidemic. This includes the executive suite and boardrooms of all opiate manufacturers, as the policy and direction for the massive growth in opiate prescriptions could not have gone unnoticed by executives at the opiate drug makers, for close to 15 years. Record earnings, bonuses and SEC filings all point to “boardroom knowledge” of ever increasing opiate focused sales efforts.

Opiate Rx MDL 2804 Parallels State Claims

The state actions are now parallel to the September 25, 2017 filing of a “Motion for Consolidation in “The Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804”, with the Joint Panel for Multidistrict Litigation. MDL 2804, where numerous Midwest counties in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia as well as the city of Birmingham, Alabama joined together to file suit against the 3 largest distributors of opiates in the country, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. Also named in the suit are the primary Big Pharma opiate manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo, Teva and others as additional defendants.

Attorney Generals from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri and Pennsylvania have launched full investigations, following the lead of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who sued five drug manufacturers for misrepresenting the risks of opioids. Other states are also beginning the review of opioid manufacturers and will decide if they are joining the others in filing legal claims.

“We are looking into the role of marketing and how related corporate business practices might have played into increasing prescriptions and use of these powerful and addictive drugs,” District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Its currently unclear exactly how many states are involved in the probe, though officials said a majority of attorneys general are part of the coalition. Among those leading the probe is Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, a Republican.

Officials did not specify which companies were under investigation, but suffice it to say, any company that made and marketed opioids products over the last 10 years will be scrutinized.

Opioid drugs, including prescription painkillers and heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, more than any year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Separate lawsuits by attorneys general in Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey and Mississippi, are pursuing opioid-related cases as of September 2017, with many more following suit very soon. They are have targeting Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N), Endo International Plc(ENDP.O), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and Allergan Plc(AGN.N) as well as leaving the door open to add additional defendants, based on the information revealed in the ongoing multi-state investigations.

New Jersey Files Against Insys Therapeutics

New Jersey recently filed suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc over marketing scheme for its Fentanyl product known as “Subsys”, and the massive off-label marketing campaign for uses other than FDA approved “cancer pain” treatments. The entire executive board of Insys was indicted in December 2016, along with many of its sales staff and numerous doctors across the country, with at least to physicians being sentenced to 20 years in prison by the US District Court in Alabama. See Insys Therapeutics, Inc Executives Indicted Over Fentanyl Sales Campaign.

Teva in a statement said on Thursday it is “committed to the appropriate promotion and use of opioids.” Representatives for the other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The companies have denied wrongdoing, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved their products as safe and effective and saying that they carried warning labels that disclosed their risks. The specific allegation focus more on “off label” and doctor targeting and marketing practices that repeatedly encouraged over-writing of opiate prescriptions for patients with minimal pain issues.

Ohio Filed First

In announcing his office’s lawsuit in May 2017, Ohio Attorney General DeWine said the drug companies helped unleash the crisis by spending millions of dollars marketing and promoting such drugs as Purdue’s OxyContin, without consideration of the long term effects of the related addiction, which Purdue was absolutely aware of throughout the years of profits that now total billions of dollars.

The lawsuit said the drug companies disseminated misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids as part of a marketing scheme aimed at persuading doctors and patients that drugs should be used for chronic rather than short-term pain.  Pain centers and medical practices across the country started writing an ever increasing number of high dose opioid prescriptions for what would be considered low to mid-level pain treatment.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including those in several California counties, as well as the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Dayton, Ohio, three Tennessee district attorneys, and nine New York counties have also filed individual suits.

It is unknown at this time, if all of the legal actions filed by governmental entities across the country will be consolidated into MDL 2804, which may be the most effective way to manage the soon to be massive number of legal claims against Big Pharma and their long term opiate profit centers. Municipalities across the country seeking to recoup the enormous financial losses brought on by the opioid crisis.

Read More

“THE OPIOID CRISIS IN AMERICA” – How Insys Theraputics, Inc. Sold Stock And Killed Americans At The Same Time With The Help Of Doctors

A REPORT BY MASS TORT NEXUS 

by Mark A. York ( September 26, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subsys – an Insys Therapeutics, Inc. Pharmaceutical Opioid Product

      Here’s a perfect example of how corporate greed and licensed medical providers helped create the now rampant US opioid crisis– how payments to doctors and prescribers across the country caused addictive painkillers, like “Subsys” a fentanyl based opioid, to suddenly rip through our country like a flash fire.

Insys Therapeutics,a publicly traded pharmaceutical company based in Arizona, is just one small example of what Big Pharma has been doing for the last 10 years in every city and state in the United States, often increasing corporate earnings right alongside the catastrophic opioid related death rates. For Insys Theraputics executives, the sales team and its nationwide cadre of fraudulent doctors, the results have been felony indictments and long federal prison sentences, with many more to come.

INSYS EXECUTIVES INDICTED

December 2016 saw Insys Therapeutics CEO Michael Babich and five other senior executives indicted on criminal charges for paying kickbacks and bribes to medical professionals and committing fraud against insurance companies across the country for offering a highly addictive Fentanyl prescription product “Subsys” to the masses. The Insys boardroom was indicted in the US District Court of Massachusetts, where the entire team has engaged a stable of top national law firms to defend the indictments. The “Subsys” sales teams were charged in federal indictments across the country, including Arkansas, Connecticut, Alaska and New York and the indictments will only increase as those cases proceed and “cooperating witnesses” decide that prison isn’t an option.

To compound further harsh scrutiny for Insys, it’s new CEO Saeed Motahari, moved over from Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the Oxycontin maker, who’s also a major target of criminal and civil investigations across the country by local state and federal agencies. Purdue is charged with false marketing, off-label use and ignoring the Oxycontin highly addictive dangers for years, while bringing in literally billions of dollars in profits, but Purdue’s transgressions are in Part 2 of our ongoing reports on big pharma and opioid abuses.

DOCTORS FACING NUMEROUS CHARGES

Doctors and their pain clinics, medical centers and other healthcare facilities have been indicted for fraudulent prescription writing, submitting false claims to insurance companies and numerous other federal charges and all face a minimum of 20 to 50 years in federal prison. Two of the busiest “Subsys” prescription writers in the country were Alabama doctors, John Couch and Xiulu Ruan, who earned over $40 million from Insys, and were charged with running a pill mill between 2013 and 2015, have been convicted and sentenced to 20 years each in federal prison. The top “Subsys: prescriber of all, Dr. Gavin Awerbach, of Saginaw, MI pled guilty to defrauding Medicare and Blue Cross out of $3.1 million in improper Subsys prescriptions, his criminal sentence is pending. To show the far reach of Insys and it’s corporate plans to saturate the US market with opioids, in Anchorage, Alaska Dr. Mahmood Ahmad, was charged with heading a massive Subsys prescribing operation, which he denies, but immediately surrendered his Alaska medical license which the caused the revocation of his medical license in Arkansas.

INSURANCE COMPANIES FILED SUIT

Adding weight to this tragedy is Anthem Insurance — you may recognize them as Blue Cross, one of the largest insurers in the country, now setting their sights on Insys Theraputics and it’s executives.

Anthem is suing Insys Therapeutics, the maker of the powerful opioid Subsys, for allegedly lying, cheating and defrauding its way into the medicine cabinets of Anthem clients across the country. The drug according to Anthem’s complaint, was off market prescribed to thousands of patients for years. Review shows that 54% of patients who are taking Subsys don’t really have cancer — one of the requirements for prescribing the drug, Subsys was FDA approved for “treatment of pain related to cancer” and any other use is unauthorized or off-label use.

Anthem says that’s because Insys devised an elaborate scheme to get around Anthem’s system — by falsifying records and posing as medical professionals, often with the complete knowledge and cooperation of medical doctors across the country who then received thousands of dollars in kickbacks. These doctors chose to exchange high fees from Insys in exchange for writing off-label prescriptions to patients seeking pain relief for non-life threatening conditions.

Anthem claims it ultimately paid $19 million more for Subsys than it should have. “But the harm inflicted by Insys’s conduct is not merely financial in nature,” the complaint states “Insys put Anthem’s members’ health at risk.”

THE OFF LABEL CAMPAIGN

The only people who are supposed to be taking Subsys are adult cancer patients, according to the FDA “Subsys” approval files, anything other than that is an “off label” indication. Now you can take a drug to treat something off label if you want to, but you have to get your doctor to get pass a prior authorization.

Anthem alleges that Insys has an entire unit to get around this requirement — it’s titled the “reimbursement unit.” Investigative journalists exposed this fraud initially as far back as 2015 on behalf of the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation, see Insys Therapeutics “Subsys” Off Label Rx Fraud.

The Reimbursement Unit claim was basically the company’s fraudulent  prescription approval factory, which helped participating doctors process claims (the doctors had so many they couldn’t handle them all). The unit falsified records to show patients had cancer and called insurers, pretending to be patients or other medical professionals, to facilitate approval of payment for off-label treatment.

This is the Unit’s script for obtaining off-label approval (taken from the Anthem suit):

The script read: “The physician is aware that the medication is intended for the management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. The physician is treating the patient for their pain (or breakthrough pain, whichever is applicable).” The script deliberately omitted the word “cancer as applied to the patient treatment under discussion.”

DO STOCKS RISE AND FALL ON INDICTMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In late 2016 the entire top level of Insys executives, including former CEO Michael Babich, and five others were indicted and charged with multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy. Since then a number of sales reps and medical practitioners have pled guilty to charges that they gave or accepted kickbacks in furtherance of the fraudulent prescription scheme. The manager of reimbursement services, Elizabeth Gurrieri, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in June. There have been numerous deaths and related overdoses attributed to the over prescribing of Subsys across the country, which to date, show most parties involved being able to avoid the scrutiny of criminal charges related to off-label marketing and prescribing. Insys has tried to re-shuffle the executive board by bringing in new members, but business as usual in the Big Pharma boardroom goes on, as they simply brought in other more experienced “opioid industry” insiders to help further the continued use of “Subsys” and purportedly the major Insys New Pharma” entry, a line of complex medical marijuana products, that may enable them to shake off the current Insys label as the United States leading “opioid abuse by boardroom design” corporation.

As part of the boardroom strategy to get doctors to prescribe Subsys, Insys spent millions paying them off through a fraudulent “speakers program” meant to educate medical professionals about the drug. The speaking engagements were a veiled attempt to cover-up the direct payment to doctors for writing prescriptions, the more prescriptions you wrote, the higher your “speaking fees” increased. There are e-mails, texts and other Insys communications from all levels of company personnel stating “if they not writing prescription, they’re off the speaking program”, this policy resulted in one Alabama sales rep being paid over $700 thousand in Subsys based Rx commissions for one year, while her base salary was $40 thousand.

“While the exact amount of those kickbacks has yet to be determined, criminal indictments of the recipients indicate that Insys paid “speaker fees” of millions, of dollars, which may result in additional criminal charges against the doctors as well as the doctors facility staff who often worked hand in hand with Insys staff.

SALES REP NATALIE REED PERHAC

In the plea, Perhacs admitted that she was hired to be the personal sales representative for one of Insys’s most important prescribers, Dr. Xiulu Ruan. Ruan is one of two Alabama doctors who picked up over $115,000 in speaker fees from 2012 to 2015, and earned in excess of $40 million in related medical earnings during the same period. Earlier this year they were sentenced to 20 years in jail each for running a “pill mill” and helping Insys sales rep Natalie Reed Perhacs sell Subsys, for which she was paid in excess of $700 thousand in commissions, see Perhac Guilty Plea in Alabama Federal Court.

Perhac Plea Excerpts:

Admision No. 78: . Perhacs admitted that her primary responsibility at Insys was to increase the volume of Subsys® prescribed by Dr. Ruan, and his partner Dr. John Patrick Couch. This… was accomplished by (1) handling prior authorizations for their patients who had been prescribed Subsys®; (2) identifying patients who had been at the same strength of Subsys® for several months and recommending that Dr. Ruan or Dr. Couch increase the patients’ prescription strength; and (3) setting up and attending paid speaker programs.

Admission No. 79:. Ms. Perhac admitted that because of her involvement in the prior authorization process, she knew that the vast majority of Dr. Ruan and Dr. Couch’s patients did not have breakthrough cancer pain.

As you can see by the Perhac admissions, numbers 78 and 79, which reflect the vast number of charges lodged against her, the federal government is cracking down on everyone involved with the “Subsys” fraud. According to confidential sources, the recent June 2017 FDA “Opioid Crisis” Conference and related strategic review of the opioid crisis, will result in many more indictments and charges against drug makers and the medical providers who’ve helped facilitate the opioid epidemic that is currently in place across the United States.

Coming in “The Opioid Crisis In America” Part 2: How Insys Therapeutics, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health, J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceutical and other opioid manufacturers were allowed to place profits over patients for more than 15 years…

Read More

Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial Continued Until September 18th Based on Appeal

Johnson & Johnson and DePuy Orthopaedics Latest “Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial” Continued Until September 18th Based on Fifth Circuit Appeal 

  • By Mark A. York (September 15, 2017)

  • Mass Tort Nexus

 

 

 

 

 

The latest bellwether trial in the  DePuy Pinnacle MDL 2244 (see DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant MDL 2244 Briefcase) litigation has been postponed until September 18th, based on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling, just days before the trial was to start, where they cited “grave error” by the sitting US District Court judge, in requesting a trial delay. The trial start date was September 5th, where eight plaintiffs from New York were part of the DePuy Pinnacle MDL 2255 multidistrict litigation, who are now facing jurisdictional issues based on the June 2017 SCOTUS “Plavix Ruling” that restricts jurisdiction over plaintiffs who are residents of another state, SCOTUS Plavix Jurisdictional Ruling Strikes Non-Resident CA Plaintiffs. The Plavix ruling forced thousands of non-California residents to determine if and where they can refile their claims against Bristol-Myers Squibb. DePuy Orthopaedics and it’s parent Johnson & Johnson (J&J) are asserting the Plavix ruling by stating that the New York residents are not subject to jurisdiction of the US District Court ND Texas and the trial should be stopped. This seems to fly in the face of the justification of certain tenants of the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation rules of procedure, which assigned the DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant cases to the Texas court to consolidate the many thousands of cases across the country.

 J&J Wants To Avoid More Massive Trial Verdicts

J&J are simply using evry legal tool available, in an attempt to avoid another massive jury verdict like the one in the December 2016 Pinnacle Hip Implant trial, where California plaintiffs were awarded $1 billion in punitive damages, which the court subsequently reduced to $500 million on appeal. DePuy and J&J want to restrict plaintiffs in any way they can, as J&J is facing massive verdicts in other ongoing federal and state court cases related to it’s various other medical device and pharmaceutical product lines.

Appeals Panel Denies Writ of Mandamus Petition

On August 23rd, the Fifth Circuit panel denied Johnson & Johnson’s and DePuy Orthopaedics’ petition for writ of mandamus, which sought to halt the upcoming trial. However, two of the three panel members found that the judge proceeding over the consolidated DePuy Pinnacle litigation in Texas had allowed certain trials to take place before him which a “judicial error” including the one that as scheduled to begin yesterday where plaintiffs were New York residents. On September 1st, U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade of the Northern District of Texas issued an Order delaying the next DePuy Pinnacle hip replacement trial until September 18, 2017.

DePuy Pinnacle Hip Verdicts

The multidistrict litigation underway in the Northern District of Texas, DePuy Pinnacle MDL 2244, currently involves more than 9,000 hip replacement lawsuits related to the metal-on-metal version of DePuy Orthopedics’ Pinnacle hip system that utilizes the Ultamet liner. Plaintiffs claim that this configuration is defectively designed, as it sheds toxic metals into the joint surround the hip, as well as the blood stream, causing adverse local tissue reactions, metallosis, pseudotumor formation, and other complications that necessitate the need for revision surgery to replace the joint.

As of August 2017, MDL 2244 Pinnacle hip litigation has convened three bellwether trials. The first concluded in October 2014, with a verdict for DePuy and Johnson & Johnson.

In March 2016, five plaintiffs were awarded a total of $500 million at the close of the second DePuy Pinnacle trial, where the judge overseeing the case reduced the award to $151 million, in order to comply with Texas law governing punitive damages.

The largest hip implant trial verdict anywhere to date was in the DePuy MDL’s third bellwether trial which ended December 2, 2016, where six Pinnacle implant recipients, who were California residents, were awarded more than $1 billion in punitive damages, see $1 billion DePuy Hip Implant Verdict in MDL 2244, with the judgment later reduced to $543 million, by Judge Kinkeade.

DePuy Metal-on-Metal Hip Implant Issues

In January 2013, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration warned that metal-on-metal hip replacements were associated with higher rates of early failure compared to those constructed from other materials.  Last year, the FDA finalized a new regulation requiring the manufacturers of two types of metal-on-metal hips to submit a premarket approval (PMA) application if they wanted to continue marketing their current devices and/or market a new implant.

In August 2010, DePuy Orthopaedics announced a recall of its ASR metal-on-metal hip replacement system, after data indicated the hips were associated with a higher-than-expected rate of premature failure.  Plaintiffs who have filed Pinnacle hip lawsuits question why the company has not taken similar action in regards to the Pinnacle/Ultamet liner combination.

In May 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics did announce that it would phase out metal-on-metal hip implants, including the device named in Pinnacle hip replacement lawsuits. According to The New York Times, the company cited slowing sales, as well as the FDA’s changing regulatory stance on all-metal hip implants, as factors in its decision.

 

Read More

DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Trial Set for Today Delayed Based on Appellate Ruling of “Grave Error” By Sitting Judge

DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Bellwether Trial Set For September 5th Delayed After Appeals Court Cites Grave Error By Judge

 

 

 

 

 

DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson

By Mark A. York (September 5, 2017)

Federal Judge Ed Kinkeade has delayed the next DePuy Pinnacle hip implant bellwether trial that was set for today, Sept. 5, 2017 until later this month after a split federal appeals panel requested that he halt the proceedings due to a “grave error.”

In the August 31st opinion, two of three judges on a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused to grant a petition for writ of mandamus filed by DePuy Orthopaedics Inc. to halt the trial. But two of the three also concluded that U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who is presiding over 9,300 cases alleging DePuy’s Pinnacle hip implants are defective, committed a “grave error” in allowing certain trials to take place before him, including the one scheduled this month on behalf of eight New York plaintiffs.

Opinion Outline

The opinion stated “despite finding serious error, a majority of this panel denies the writ that petitioners seek to prohibit the district court from proceeding to trial on plaintiffs’ cases,” wrote Circuit Judge Jerry Smith. “A majority requests the district court to vacate its ruling on waiver and to withdraw its order for a trial beginning September 5, 2017.”

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom lead counsel for Johnson & Johnson, DePuy’s parent company, called on Judge Kinkeade to halt the trial, which is the fourth bellwether in the multidistrict litigation over the DePuy Pinnacle hip implant. This may help DePuy and J&J avoid a repeat of the last Pinnacle verdict in the prior bellwether trial where a Dallas jury awarded over $1 billion in damages, subsequently reduced by Judge Kinkeade, see DePuy Pinnacle Hip Implant Dec 2016 Trial Verdict Halved to Just $500 million in December 2016, which DePuy-J&J are appealing.

“We are pleased that the Fifth Circuit has determined that the MDL court does not have jurisdiction to conduct its planned trial of the claims of eight New York plaintiffs in a Texas courtroom,” Beisner wrote in an emailed statement after the ruling.

Plaintiff Counsel Surprised

Lead plaintiffs attorney Mark Lanier called it the “wildest opinion I’ve ever seen.”

“What this small panel has tried to do is change the law in the Fifth Circuit on a mandamus record, and that’s really frowned about,” said Lanier, of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston, who was joined in the appeal by former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr.

In addition to this month’s trial, the ruling could impact a separate case before the Fifth Circuit in which Johnson & Johnson has raised the same venue arguments in appealing a $1.04 billion verdict in the most recent Pinnacle trial. Oral argument on that appeal hasn’t yet been scheduled.

“Why this court issues an order on another court’s case, which is just an advisory opinion, is just absurd,” said Lanier. “It’s judicial activism.”

Lanier filed a petition for rehearing en banc on Friday. Later that afternoon, Kinkeade ordered the trial delayed until Sept. 18.

Final Bellwether trial

Kinkeade appeared to anticipate the Fifth Circuit’s intervention. On Aug. 25, he ordered that this month’s trial would “be the final bellwether case tried in the Dallas division of the Northern District of Texas” under which both sides have waived venue.  This was an unexpected ruling for the Pinnacle litigation, where Johnson & Johnson has appealed two other verdicts in Kinkeade’s courtroom, both involving consolidated cases that led to major awards in 2016,. Johnson & Johnson won the first verdict in 2014. But a second trial ended with a verdict of $502 million awarded to five Texas plaintiffs, while the third gave $1.04 billion verdict to six California plaintiffs.

All DePuy Hip Implant Litigation

These cases are part of the 8,707 actions consolidated before Judge Kinkeade in MDL 2244, In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation, Case No. 3:11-md-02244, Northern District of Texas in Dallas.

Juries have found that DePuy and J&J have negligently designed the hip implant, failed to warn surgeons about dangerous conditions related to the implant, and concealed its risks. J&J stopped selling the devices in 2013 after the FDA issued a safety communication about artificial-hip damages.

Separately, DuPuy is facing 1,458 product liability actions consolidated before US District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick in MDL 2197, In re: DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., ASR Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation in Toledo, Ohio.

J&J prevailed in the first Pinnacle hip case to go to trial in October 2014 after a jury rejected a Montana woman’s claims that the devices were defective and gave her metal poisoning. In March 2016, a Dallas jury ordered J&J to pay $502 million to a group of five patients who accused the company of hiding defects in the hips. A judge cut that verdict in July to about $150 million.

DePuy Claims “Lexecon” Error

DePuy and Johnson & Johnson have argued that Kinkeade lacked jurisdiction over the trials involving California and New York plaintiffs. MDL judges are assigned to oversee pretrial matters with the intention of sending cases back to their original courts for trial. But defendants often waive that right under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1998 holding in Lexecon v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, which allows bellwether trials to proceed before an MDL judge.

Johnson & Johnson claims it waived that right as to the first and second trials, but not the third or fourth. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have insisted that Johnson & Johnson agreed to a global waiver over all the trials.

Mass Tort Nexus will provide additional details of the ongoing trial dispute as information becomes available.

 

 

 

Read More

FDA Safety Notice Letter “Recommends The Continued Use Of Forced Air Thermal Regulation Systems During Surgery”

Does the August 30, 2017 FDA Medical Device Safety Notice Letter Impact the BAIR HUGGER MDL 2666 FORCED AIR WARMING DEVICES Litigation? 

3M™ Bair Hugger™ Blanket System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

US Food & Drug Administration Healthcare Provider Notice, August 30, 2017

FDA Safety Information Notice: Forced Air Thermal Regulating Systems: Healthcare Provider Letter – Information About Use

08/30/2017 – Dear Health Care Provider Letter – FDA]

AUDIENCE: Surgery, Nursing, Anesthesia

ISSUE: The FDA is reminding health care providers that using thermoregulation devices during surgery, including forced air thermoregulating systems, have been demonstrated to result in less bleeding, faster recovery times, and decreased risk of infection for patients.

The FDA recently became aware that some health care providers and patients may be avoiding the use of forced air thermal regulating systems during surgical procedures due to concerns of a potential increased risk of surgical site infection (e.g., following joint replacement surgery). After a thorough review of available data, the FDA has been unable to identify a consistently reported association between the use of forced air thermal regulating systems and surgical site infection.

Therefore, the FDA continues to recommend the use of thermoregulating devices (including forced air thermal regulating systems) for surgical procedures when clinically warranted. Surgical procedures performed without the use of a thermoregulation system may cause adverse health consequences for patients during the postoperative and recovery process.

The FDA will continue to actively monitor this situation and will update this communication if significant new information becomes available.

BACKGROUND: Forced air thermal regulating systems, also called forced air warmers or forced air warming systems, are devices used to regulate a patient’s temperature during surgical procedures. Forced air thermal regulating systems use an electrical blower to circulate filtered, temperature controlled air through a hose into a blanket placed over or under a patient.

To determine if there is an increased risk of surgical site infection when forced air thermal regulating systems are used during surgery, the FDA collected and analyzed data available to date from several sources, including medical device reports received by the agency, information from manufacturers and hospitals, publicly available medical literature, operating room guidelines, and ventilation requirements.

RECOMMENDATION: FDA continues to recommend the use of thermoregulating devices (including forced air thermal regulating systems) for surgical procedures when clinically warranted. As always, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use in the operating room/and or the post-operative environment.

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

 

FDA Medical Device Safety Notice

“Official Notice Letter”

 Information about the Use of Forced Air Thermal Regulating Systems – Letter to Health Care Providers

August 30, 2017

Dear Health Care Provider,

The FDA is reminding health care providers that using thermoregulation devices during surgery, including forced air thermoregulating systems, have been demonstrated to result in less bleeding, faster recovery times, and decreased risk of infection for patients.

The FDA recently became aware that some health care providers and patients may be avoiding the use of forced air thermal regulating systems during surgical procedures due to concerns of a potential increased risk of surgical site infection (e.g., following joint replacement surgery). After a thorough review of available data, the FDA has been unable to identify a consistently reported association between the use of forced air thermal regulating systems and surgical site infection.

Therefore, the FDA continues to recommend the use of thermoregulating devices (including forced air thermal regulating systems) for surgical procedures when clinically warranted. Surgical procedures performed without the use of a thermoregulation system may cause adverse health consequences for patients during the postoperative and recovery process.

Forced air thermal regulating systems, also called forced air warmers or forced air warming systems, are devices used to regulate a patient’s temperature during surgical procedures. Forced air thermal regulating systems use an electrical blower to circulate filtered, temperature controlled air through a hose into a blanket placed over or under a patient.

To determine if there is an increased risk of surgical site infection when forced air thermal regulating systems are used during surgery, the FDA collected and analyzed data available to date from several sources, including medical device reports received by the agency, information from manufacturers and hospitals, publicly available medical literature, operating room guidelines, and ventilation requirements

As always, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use in the operating room/and or the post-operative environment.

FDA ACTIONS

The FDA will continue to actively monitor this situation and will update this communication if significant new information becomes available.

CONTACT US

If you have questions about this communication, please contact CDRH’s Division of Industry Communication and Education (DICE) at DICE@FDA.HHS.GOV, 800-638-2041, or 301-796-7100.

Sincerely,
/s/
William Maisel, MD, MPH
Deputy Center Director for Science
Center for Devices and Radiological Health
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

 

Read More