Sarah Fuller found she had terrible neck and head pain for years after she was in two serious accidents. Fuller used to work as a nurse’s aide but had to quit because of persistent pain. In addition, an assortment of painkillers and medicine had an impact on her kidneys forcing her to stop taking any medicine. Fuller was referred to a new doctor who then asked her to make a visit to discuss her pain. She went into the office with her father, David Fuller, and found that along with the new doctor was a drug company sales representative – the sales rep. did most of the talking.
Fuller was prescribed Subsys, “a fast-acting opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin” and was found dead 15 months later. A lawsuit has been filed against the doctor, the mail-order pharmacy, and Insys Therapeutics Inc., “the pharmaceutical company that makes Subsys, a brand-name version of fentanyl.” The lawsuit claims that repeatedly sent sales representatives directly to patients and “infiltrated the medical community with lies, misinformation, kickbacks and financial rewards.”
Daniel P. Alford, a Boston University School of Medicine professor and director of the opioid education, told press, “I can’t imagine a reason to use transmucosal fentanyl for chronic pain management.” Alford had no involvement in Sarah Fuller’s care.
Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist and director of NYU School of Medicine’s Division of Medical Ethics, has never heard of a case where a patient got counseled by a drug rep. Sarah Fuller’s case was described to Caplan by a reporter, which he then commented on as a “triple ethics whammy… [Combining] a dangerous drug, a vulnerable person, and then an unqualified person taking on communication responsibilities.”
Richard Hollawell filed the lawsuit against Insys on behalf of Sarah Fuller’s estate. Hollawell explained, “It’s really a huge fraud that this pharmaceutical company has been involved in, from the top on down to field sales reps.” Deborah Fuller, Sarah Fuller’s mother, hope that Sarah’s case can have an impact on those taking the drug.
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