AN EMBATTLED pharmaceutical company that sells the powerful painkiller fentanyl has donated $500,000 toward defeating a ballot initiative that would make recreational use of marijuana legal under Arizona law.
It's hard to imagine a more sinister donor than Insys Therapeutics Inc. in the eyes of pot legalization proponents, who long have claimed drug companies want to keep cannabis illegal to corner the market for drugs, some addictive and dangerous, that relieve pain and other symptoms.
Insys currently markets just one product, according to an August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission: a sublingual fentanyl spray it calls Subsys.
Two former company employees pleaded not guilty last month to federal charges related to an alleged kickback scheme to get doctors to prescribe Subsys.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit late last month against the company alleging Insys hawked the drug to doctors for off-label prescribing, saying the company's "desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients' health and push addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes."
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid significantly more potent than heroin that can cause overdoses, especially when it's used to cut the supply of illegally sourced drugs. The musician Prince died from an accidental fentanyl overdose in April.
Insys made its large contribution to the anti-legalization campaign group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy on Aug. 31, according to information posted online by the Arizona secretary of state's office.