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Pharma Company Makes Donation To Stop Pot Legalization

A pharmaceutical company that sells a strong pain killer has made a large donation to an organization that is fighting against legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona.

Insys Therapeutics, based in Chandler, Arizona, donated $500,000 Aug. 31 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP), a group that is working to get voters to reject Proposition 205, the Phoenix New Times reports.

If passed, Proposition 205 would allow adults 21 and older to use, possess, and grow personal amounts of marijuana, while establishing a limited system of cannabis retail outlets in the state.

Insys Therapeutics sells a fentanyl-based painkiller called Subsys, but the company soon plans to launch a pharmaceutical version of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, called Syndros.

This new product may be why the company is working with ARDP to stop the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arizona, although it says the concern is patient safety.

“[Prop 205] fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children," CEO John Kapoor said in a statement to Phoenix New Times. "Our stance is consistent with our company’s goals. We strive to develop pharmaceutical products for the supportive care of patients while taking patient safety very seriously. To that end, we believe that all available medicines should meet the clinical standards set by the FDA."

The company’s claim that they are safety-minded can be questioned given that they are being investigated in four states, including Arizona, for marketing practices concerning Subsys that have allegedly led to patient deaths.

Subsys was created to treat cancer pain, but the company’s sales representatives allegedly pushed doctors to prescribe it otherwise.

"This drug company's desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients' health and push addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in an August news release obtained by the Chicago Tribune after a lawsuit was filed by the state against Insys Therapeutics. "It's this type of reprehensible and illegal conduct that feeds the dangerous opioid epidemic and is another low for the pharmaceutical industry."

J.P. Holyoke, chairman of the group supporting Proposition 205, told Phoenix New Times that ARDP can no longer claim it represents “responsible drug policy” after accepting Insys Therapeutics donation.

"They're knowingly accepting money from one of the worst actors in the business," he said. "This is a company engaged in illegal marketing schemes, that is intentionally hooking people on opioids."

While ARDP and Insys Therapeutics are against legalizing recreational marijuana, 50 percent of registered voters in Arizona support the measure, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll.

Sources: Phoenix New Times, Chicago Tribune, The Arizona Republic / Photo credit: Nick Oza/The Arizona Republic

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