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Massachusetts Attorney General and U.S. Attorney On Front Lines in War Against the Opioid Epidemic

February 20, 2019

The Attorney General Law and law enforcement officials in Massachusetts are using criminal and civil fraud laws to fight the opioid epidemic. They have taken aim with both barrels, targeting OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and Fentanyl manufacturer Insys for their roles in creating and fueling the crisis.  Their efforts have intensified this month.

The opening shot was fired by the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts, which indicted Insys, its founder, and several executives, accusing them of paying kickbacks and bribes to doctors and pharmacists, engaging in aggressive and deceptive marketing, and committing conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, and racketeering that exacerbated the opioid epidemic.

At least one Insys executive has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against his former colleagues by testifying in court as a government witness. This week, the federal criminal trial against the remaining defendants  opened in federal court in Boston.  The allegations in the federal indictment are highly troubling, opening a window on the aggressive and deceptive marketing, the profits made, and the bribing of doctors.  Undoubtedly the trial will reveal even more disturbing facts.

The second shot was fired by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey who filed a civil fraud lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and multiple current and former executives, laying bare the aggressive and deceptive marketing of opioids in Massachusetts, the use of kickbacks and bribes, the insidious relationships between Purdue Pharma and the medical establishment, including such renowned institutions as Massachusetts General Hospital, and the resulting patient deaths.  The highly detailed allegations against  Purdue Pharma and its executives and medical practitioners recited in the state lawsuit attached are extremely disturbing, and should outrage anyone who reads them.

Since 2016, there has been a swirl of law enforcement activity seeking to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic and recompense victims and the taxpayers who have paid for the drugs through government insurance programs such as Medicaid.  For example, numerous State Attorneys General  have brought actions against manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, pharmacy chains, and doctors who accepted kickbacks and prescribed obscene amounts of the drugs, and on the federal level, large numbers of doctors who overprescribed opioids have been arrested. Unfortunately, it comes too late for the many victims, with hundreds of thousands of opioid related deaths nationally since 2007. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s lawsuit details the devastation Purdue has wreaked in Massachusetts.

Credit goes to whistleblowers  and others who persevered and helped expose the fraud behind the skyrocketing use and price tag of opioids, for example, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent who sought to sanction wholesalers and distributors who were distributing opioids, but had his efforts were scuttled by his superiors. See 60 Minutes story.

. .  Credit also goes to the dedicated federal and state government workers seeking to hold those responsible accountable for the sake of public health and the public fisc. We are rooting for them to bring it home, using all the prosecutorial and regulatory tools at their disposal.

Keep your eyes on Boston as the good fight for justice ratchets up.