Drug Company Opposes Legal Pot, Is Worried About Profits


Insys Therapeutics gave $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, an anti-marijuana legalization campaign -- but the drug company may have a financial reason for its massive donation to defeat Prop. 205, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state.

Insys said in a statement Sept. 8 that it opposes Prop. 205 "because it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children," noted The Arizona Republic, and added:

...We believe that all available medicines should meet the clinical standards set by the FDA. Insys firmly believes in the potential clinical benefits of cannabinoids. Like many in the healthcare community, we hope that patients will have the opportunity to benefit from these potential products once clinical trials demonstrate their safe and effective use. To that end, we are currently conducting research with leading universities and institutions to ensure the clinical benefits of cannabinoids for unmet medical needs including epilepsy, anxiety and PTSD.

Insys has developed Dronabinol Oral Solution, a drug that includes a synthetic version of THC (marijuana ingredient), which was approved by the FDA in July for the treatment of chemotherapy symptoms -- nausea and vomiting -- in AIDS and cancer sufferers. Many such patients have been using real marijuana for years for the same symptoms.

The Intercept notes that a 2007 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing by Insys said that legalized marijuana would adversely affect the potential profits from the dronabinol:

Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate … If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.

The Intercept reports that Insys also warned in a December 2015 SEC filing that several states “have already enacted laws legalizing medicinal and recreational marijuana."

J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which supports legalization, said in a statement: "You have a company using profits from the sale of what has been called 'the most potent and dangerous opioid on the market' to prevent adults from using a far less harmful substance," reports The Arizona Republic.

The opioid that Holyoak may be referring to is Subsys fentanyl, which is manufactured by Insys.

The Washington Post reported that the sometimes-deadly painkiller is the subject of state and federal investigations, as well as a lawsuit filed by some shareholders. Insys has been accused of wrongfully marketing the drug to physicians in order to jack up sales.

Sources: The Washington Post, The Intercept, The Arizona Republic / Photo credit: Ryan Bushby/Wikimedia Commons

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