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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 01 December 2017 > The Pain Pushers

The Pain Pushers

Investigators are closing in on Big Pharma, claiming that shady tactics fueled the opioid crisis

DRUGS

PAIN MISMANAGEMENT InSys CEO and founder Kapoor, is accused of “leading a nationwide conspiracy to profit using bribes and fraud” to boost sales of a fentanyl spray.
JAMEL TOPPIN/THE FORBES COLLECTION/CONTOUR/CONTOUR BY GETTY

MANY SAY THE OPIOID CRISIS THAT HAS killed more than 183,000 Americans since 1999 has been driven by drug companies that have done just about everything, legal or otherwise, to convince the public that these painkillers are safe. Even President Donald Trump, who recently declared the epidemic a public health emergency, said companies that make the highly addictive painkillers are responsible for the surge in deaths. Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous opioids, 50 times more potent than heroin. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that overdoses on this synthetic opioid have increased 540 percent in the past three years, and many say the drug is responsible for the epidemic.

Insys Therapeutics produces Subsys, a powerful fentanyl-based liquid that earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 specifically for use by cancer patients with pain that doesn’t respond to other painkillers—what’s known as “breakthrough cancer pain.” Subsys is a fastacting spray used under the tongue, so the medication is absorbed directly into the bloodstream without needing to go through your digestive system. This delivery method is highly effective, but it means overdosing on Subsys is far too easy—and possibly just a few accidental sprays away.

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