KENTUCKY (KFVS) - Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a suit against pharmaceutical manufacturer for allegedly promoting its fentanyl-based cancer drugs for “off-label” use in Kentucky.
Beshear said this directly contributed to the state’s opioid epidemic.
The lawsuit, filed in Fayette Circuit Court, claims Pennsylvania-based Teva persuaded physicians to prescribe its drugs Actiq and Fentora to treat chronic pain despite the drugs being approved solely for breakthrough pain in cancer patients.
The lawsuit alleges Teva’s salesforce was instructed to target doctors who were not oncologists, including general practitioners. In once instance, a sales representative alleged that 99 percent of the doctors in her territory were pain specialists not oncologists who wrote prescriptions for off-label use.
According to Beshear, this allowed the company to grow its market in Kentucky while contributing to the state’s drug epidemic. He said Teva had the largest amount of opioids, per gram, sold in Kentucky over a nearly 10-year period.
He said in Kentucky and the U.S., overdose deaths related to fentanyl now surpass deaths related to heroin.
According to the lawsuit, the FDA prohibited Teva from marketing Actiq for anything but breakthrough cancer pain, which is a sudden flare-up of pain. The FDA refused to approve Fentora for the treatment of chronic pain because of the potential harm, including high risk of “serious and life-threatening adverse events” and abuse, which the agency said are greatest in non-cancer patients.