WASHINGTON, DC, October 4, 2019 – Maria Guzman, the Insys whistleblower who first provided the government with detailed information about the drugmaker’s illegal and outrageous sales practices that caused prescriptions of its highly addictive and dangerous fentanyl spray to skyrocket, has been named “Whistleblower of the Year” by the nonprofit whistleblower organization, Taxpayers Against Fraud.
Guzman is represented by attorney Mark Kleiman of the law firm, Kleiman/Rajaram, and Erika Kelton of Phillips & Cohen LLP, a whistleblower law firm.
“I am so honored to receive the award, but I’m also saddened by the many deaths and lives ruined by the illegal use and overprescribing of fentanyl and other opioids,” Guzman said. “I am glad that I was able to help stop one company that played a part in that tragedy.”
Insys fired Guzman, a former specialty sales representative for the company in Florida, after she objected to the company’s bribes and lies to doctors and refused to use those sales tactics herself, despite being told to do so.
Insys was paying doctors kickbacks in many forms, including trips to strip clubs, steak dinners and payments for sham speaker programs. In return, doctors prescribed thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions for Subsys. The FDA approved the fentanyl spray only to relieve severe cancer-related pain, but Insys was telling doctors to use it for all types of pain and at high dosages.
Guzman filed a “qui tam” (whistleblower) lawsuit against Insys in 2013 that revealed to government authorities for the first time the company’s illegal sales and marketing tactics for Subsys. She was blackballed in the industry and suffered in other ways for her decision to stand up against the company.
“Ms. Guzman has played a vital and important role in stopping company executives who ruined lives to increase their profits, as well reprehensible doctors who got patients hooked on Subsys simply to enrich themselves,” Kleiman said. “We are so proud to represent her.”
Kelton also praised their client.
“Maria Guzman’s decision to blow the whistle took a lot of guts,” said Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen. “I can’t recall in my decades of representing whistleblowers that there has been another whistleblower who has had such a profound impact.”
Because of the government investigation Guzman’s case launched, more than two dozen Insys executives, sales reps and doctors have been charged and convicted of criminal conduct. That includes Insys founder and CEO John Kapoor and four other former executives, who were found guilty in May of criminal charges connected to bribing doctors to prescribe Subsys.
Insys agreed in June to pay the government $225 million to settle criminal and civil charges, including Guzman’s qui tam lawsuit. Days later the company declared bankruptcy.
About Phillips & Cohen
Phillips & Cohen is the nation’s most successful law firm representing whistleblowers. The firm’s cases have helped federal, state and local governments recover more than $12.3 billion in civil settlements and criminal fines. Phillips & Cohen represents whistleblowers in qui tam lawsuits as well as cases brought under the whistleblower programs of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.