When cannabis advocates in the state of Arizona fought for legalization back in 2016, one of the primary financiers of their opposition was a Chandler-based pharmaceutical company by the name of Insys. By public record, Insys had contributed at least a half a million dollars into support for a group called Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy who vehemently opposed any cannabis reform.
Before the infusion of cash from Insys, pro-cannabis fundraising in the campaign was outpacing the prohibitionists at a clip of 3-to-1, but a half a mill is a half a mill and it was enough to turn the tables in the debate and here we are, with a controversial medical marijuana program in Arizona, and no real progress on adult use legalization.
Even before this election, as far back as 2011, Insys was lobbying the DEA in opposition of naturally-derived THC, citing the “abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”
So Arizona still doesn’t have legal weed and the Feds still treat it like a deadly drug, so Insys would be celebrating, if it were not for the mounting legal trouble that its executives are facing as the company is currently being targeted by America’s rightful rage against our out of control opioid crisis.
You see, Insys created a drug called Subsys, which for years accounted for upwards of 95% of their profits. Subsys is an oral spray version of the highly addictive, and in many cases deadly, painkiller fentanyl.
It was originally marketed to the FDA for approval as a pain relief option for people suffering from cancer-related pain. With a price tag ranging from $3,000-$16,000 per month (depending on the dose) it did not sell well, so execs at Insys shifted gears and began pushing it to any and every doctor who treated patients for any sort of moderate pain.
And by pushing, we mean PUSHING.
Court documents in the current cases against Insys and select employees reveal that some individual docs were paid off to the tune of $200,000 or more in order to spread the devastation caused by Subsys.
Sales boomed, skyrocketing from $8.6M in 2012, to over $329M in 2015, so kicking in a measly $500,000 to keep people away from a non-addictive painkiller that they could grow at home was an easy investment for the overlords at Insys.
Right around this peak in revenue and their meddling in local politics, the wheels came off the ride at Insys and whistleblowers cropped up from both ends of the bribery deals looking to spill the beans to authorities in order to save their own skin.
As a result of this news, and of the anti-opioid-abuse sentiment growing across the country, sales plummeted, and now the company is on the brink of insolvency.
Now, with their freshly licked fingers propped up into the political winds, Insys sees cannabis as a good dollar. They hope to sell their rights to Subsys, whatever that is worth now, and transition full time into the cannabinoid sector.
“This pivot may be forced, but CBD and opioid dependence are hot spaces with a lot of interest from investors,” said Curt Wanek, a pharmaceutical equity analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, in a perfect example of where the cannabis industry is headed if we are not careful to preserve its grassroots origins.
Insys is not necessarily new to cannabis medicine, which only adds to their hypocrisy from 2016, and earlier. They already produce one of the few FDA-approved lab-created synthetic cannabinoid treatments called Syndros, which is aimed at alleviating nausea from chemotherapy.
Syndros was also granted a Schedule II standing from the DEA on the Controlled Substances Act, while cannabis itself is still a Schedule I drug deemed by the federal government to somehow have no medicinal value.
This fraudulent, corrupt, soulless Big Pharma reject has played a significant role in keeping the cannabis plant illegal and has bankrolled that effort by pushing highly addictive and deadly painkillers to the public with a green light from the Feds.
Now, after painting themselves into the corner with the blood of their customers, they reach their dirty hand out to the same plant that they have demonized, begging for a bailout.
They spent years spreading the tired narrative that cannabis is dangerous for kids, now they want to make cannabis for kids.
Facing state and federal cases, along with shareholder and other related lawsuits, we hope this is the last we see of Insys, but the reality is that scum like this usually finds its way back to the surface so the cannabis community must remain vigilant.