Fi­nan­cial­ly wob­bly opi­oid drug­mak­er In­sys agrees to pay $225M to set­tle gov­ern­ment probes

Af­ter be­ing found guilty of en­gag­ing in a bribery scheme to get doc­tors to pre­scribe its po­tent, ad­dic­tive painkiller and dup­ing in­sur­ers in­to pay­ing for the opi­oid drug by a fed­er­al ju­ry last month, for­mer ex­ec­u­tives of the con­tro­ver­sial In­sys Ther­a­peu­tics are be­ing held ac­count­able. The Phoenix, Ari­zona-based drug­mak­er $IN­SY has agreed to pay $225 mil­lion to set­tle the gov­ern­ment’s sep­a­rate crim­i­nal and civ­il in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the De­part­ment of Jus­tice (DoJ) said on Wednes­day.

The two in­ves­ti­ga­tions are fo­cused on the com­pa­ny’s fen­tanyl spray Sub­sys that was ap­proved in 2012 by the FDA for break­through can­cer pain. Fen­tanyl is a man-made opi­oid 50 times more po­tent than hero­in and 100 times more po­tent than mor­phine, ac­cord­ing to the CDC. Pros­e­cu­tors charged In­sys with in­flat­ing Sub­sys sales by brib­ing doc­tors to pre­scribe the drug to pa­tients with­out can­cer — in an elab­o­rate scheme that in­clud­ed win­ing and din­ing them, pay­ing them to speak at “ed­u­ca­tion­al events” and in one case even a lap dance — fu­el­ing the rag­ing opi­oid cri­sis that kills 130 Amer­i­cans every day.

John Kapoor In­sys

Ju­rors from the tri­al who found In­sys founder John Kapoor and and four of his high rank­ing col­leagues (that are no longer work­ing with In­sys) guilty, were al­so giv­en a front-row seat to the crass video de­signed to train the com­pa­ny’s sales reps, in which two im­pec­ca­bly suit­ed men — os­ten­si­bly In­sys em­ploy­ees — ‘rap’ In­sys’ sin­is­ter strat­e­gy re­plete with rapid hand ges­tures: “I love titra­tions. Yeah, that’s not a prob­lem. I got new pa­tients, and I got a lot of ‘em…If you want to be great, lis­ten to my voice. You can be great — but it’s your choice.”

Al­to­geth­er, eight In­sys ex­ec­u­tives have now been con­vict­ed by the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice in Mass­a­chu­setts for crimes re­lat­ing to the il­le­gal mar­ket­ing of Sub­sys, the DoJ said.

As part of the crim­i­nal res­o­lu­tion, In­sys will en­ter in­to a de­ferred pros­e­cu­tion agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment, its op­er­at­ing sub­sidiary will plead guilty to five counts of mail fraud, and the com­pa­ny will pay a $2 mil­lion fine and $28 mil­lion in for­fei­ture. The crim­i­nal con­vic­tion is his­toric as it takes aim at the pow­er­ful mas­ter­minds be­hind a mar­ket­ing ploy de­signed to put prof­it ahead of pa­tients — in­stead of mere fines, or let­ting pow­er­ful ex­ec­u­tives make sac­ri­fi­cial lambs of their lieu­tenants.

Un­der the civ­il res­o­lu­tion, In­sys agreed to pay $195 mil­lion to set­tle al­le­ga­tions that it vi­o­lat­ed the False Claims Act.

“To­day’s set­tle­ment sends a strong mes­sage to phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers that the kinds of il­le­gal con­duct that we have al­leged in this case will not be tol­er­at­ed,” said As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Jody Hunt of the DoJ’s civ­il di­vi­sion, in a state­ment.

Jody Hunt DoJ

The set­tle­ment is not cheap for the al­ready fi­nan­cial­ly strained In­sys. Last month, the com­pa­ny in­di­cat­ed it was fac­ing a liq­uid­i­ty cri­sis, which could com­pel it in­to fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy pro­tec­tion.

The com­pa­ny’s le­gal ex­pens­es jumped about 150% to $25.7 mil­lion in the first-quar­ter of 2019, ver­sus the same quar­ter last year. In April, In­sys’ au­di­tor raised doubts on the drug­mak­er’s abil­i­ty to con­tin­ue as a go­ing con­cern.

As of March 31, the com­pa­ny had $87.6 mil­lion in cash and cash equiv­a­lents and in­vest­ments — as well as ac­crued li­a­bil­i­ties of rough­ly $240.3 mil­lion in pro­posed set­tle­ments of var­i­ous lit­i­ga­tion mat­ters, In­sys said, adding it ex­pects to have con­tin­ued neg­a­tive cash flows from op­er­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

In­sys is hard­ly the on­ly opi­oid drug mak­er in fi­nan­cial trou­ble. Pur­due Phar­ma — the mak­er of one of the most wide­ly abused pre­scrip­tion opi­oid painkiller Oxy­con­tin — is re­port­ed­ly con­sid­er­ing bank­rupt­cy. Mean­while, oth­er drug man­u­fac­tur­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and phar­ma­cies are al­so fac­ing hun­dreds of civ­il law­suits for their role in prop­a­gat­ing the opi­oid cri­sis.


Im­age: Kristof­fer Trip­plaar for SIPA AP

5AM Ven­tures: Fu­el­ing the Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tors

By RBC Capital Markets
With Andy Schwab, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at 5AM Ventures

Key Points

Prescription Digital Therapeutics, cell therapy technologies, and in silico medicines will be a vital part of future treatment modalities.
Unlocking the potential of the microbiome could be the missing link to better disease diagnosis.
Growing links between academia, industry, and venture capital are spinning out more innovative biotech companies.
Biotech is now seen by investors as a growth space as well as a safe haven, fuelling the recent IPO boom.

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric (Photo Credit: Andrew Venditti)

Pssst: That big Bio­haven Alzheimer's study? It was a bust. Even the sub­group analy­sis ex­ecs tout­ed was a flop

You know it’s bad when a biopharma player plucks out a subgroup analysis for a positive take — even though it was way off the statistical mark for success, like everything else.

So it was for Biohaven $BHVN on MLK Monday, as the biotech reported on the holiday that their Phase II/III Alzheimer’s study for troriluzole flunked both co-primary endpoints as well as a key biomarker analysis.

The drug — a revised version of the ALS drug riluzole designed to regulate glutamate — did not “statistically differentiate” from placebo on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale 11 (ADAS-cog) and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale Sum of Boxes (CDR-SB).  The “hippocampal volume” assessment by MRI also failed to distinguish itself from placebo for all patients fitting the mild-to-moderate disease profile they had established for the study.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein (AP, Images)

Poll: Should Joshua Sharf­stein or Janet Wood­cock lead the FDA from here?

It’s time for a new FDA commissioner to come on board, a rite of passage for Joe Biden’s administration that should help seal the new president’s rep on seeking out the experts to lead the government over the next 4 years.

As of now, the competition for the top job appears to have narrowed down to 2 people: The longtime CDER chief Janet Woodcock and Joshua Sharfstein, the former principal deputy at the FDA under Peggy Hamburg. Both were appointed by Barack Obama.

As­traZeneca keeps the ball rolling on Dai­ichi-part­nered En­her­tu, pick­ing up 2nd in­di­ca­tion in gas­tric can­cer

AstraZeneca’s big gamble on Daiichi Sankyo’s antibody-drug conjugate Enhertu has already paid off with a big approval in breast cancer more than a year ago. But the partners have big plans for their blockbuster in the making, and a new nod in gastric cancer will raise their spirits even higher.

The FDA on Friday approved Enhertu to treat locally advanced or metastatic HER2-positive gastric or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma in patients who have previously undergone at least one round of treatment with a Herceptin-based regimen, AstraZeneca said in a release.

Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly CSO (Lilly via Facebook)

Eli Lil­ly tees up dis­cov­ery pact worth more than $1.6B with Merus for T cell-fo­cused bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­bod­ies

Under science chief Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly has taken some big swings at next-gen therapies, including trying to find the next big thing in oncology. Now, after one early failure in the field, Lilly is going back to the bispecific antibody well with a new deal with a Dutch biotech.

Lilly will pay $40 million upfront with an additional $20 million equity stake in Merus NV to identify and develop three bispecific antibodies looking to engage the CD3 antigen on T cells and redirect immune cells, the Indianapolis pharma giant said Tuesday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Andrew Allen (Gritstone)

As coro­n­avirus vari­ants trig­ger new alarms, the NIH is putting an un­der-the-radar ‘next-gen’ vac­cine in­to PhI

Over the past year, the world has been transfixed by the development of new vaccines to fight SARS-CoV-2. In a frenzy of activity, the new mRNA approach has delivered pioneering emergency approvals in record time. And with some setbacks, the more traditional big players are coming along with added jabs as the most affluent nations in the world begin to vaccinate large portions of their populations.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

The IPO queue adds 5 more biotechs hop­ing to ring in 2021 by blitz­ing Nas­daq

Following a record year for IPOs — in terms of both proceeds and count — there’s already a long lineup of biotechs ready to jump onto Nasdaq in the new year. The companies are likely looking for much higher raises than they initially projected on their S-1s. Now it’s time to see if investors are still hungry for another round of biotech stocks.

Sana helped set the pace early on, as its founders look to divvy up a fortune from their IPO. And late last week 5 more biotechs crowded in, looking to pick up the pace where 2020 left off. Here they are:

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 98,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

News brief­ing: Beam bags a $260M pri­vate place­ment; mi­Ra­gen re­brands to Virid­i­an Ther­a­peu­tics

Agios vet John Evans has demonstrated how to raise big money for a little biotech.

The Beam Therapeutics CEO — and ARCH partner — has pieced together a $260 million private placement from a group of backers that includes Perceptive Advisors, Farallon Capital, Casdin Capital, Redmile Group and Cormorant Asset Management. And there are 3 main goals they’ll pursue with it: clinical development, strategic partnerships and general corporate purposes.

Ox­ford gets £100M to seize a 'break­through mo­men­t' in fight­ing su­per­bugs

Close to 70 years after Oxford scientists purified penicillin and confirmed its effect as an antibacterial drug, the university is establishing a new research institute at the forefront of combating antimicrobial resistance.

The Ineos Oxford Institute for AMR Research will initially be powered by a $136 million (£100 million) donation from Ineos, the UK-based chemicals giant founded by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, that also plays a hand in manufacturing medical and pharma products.