Sarah Fuller, a lifelong NJ native, was experiencing chronic neck and back pain after two car accidents. She began seeing Dr. Vivienne Matalon in August 2014, in hopes of finding some sort of relief from her daily struggles. At the time of her first appointment, Sarah was not taking any narcotics. However, within two months, she was on a full oxycodone and OxyContin regimen, and with that, an addiction developed.
According to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Sarah’s family, she and her father sat in Dr. Matalon’s office in January 2015, accompanied by an Insys saleswoman, who was there to persuade Sarah that Subsys, a highly addictive fentanyl spray, would help in the treatment of her pain. Insys Therapeutics is the maker of Subsys.
Less than a month after the prescription was written, her dosage was tripled, and in October 2015, Sarah was admitted to the hospital and suffering from “hyper-sedation”. This led doctors to immediately take her off of the drug, as well as decrease the dosage of OxyContin. Though the hospital communicated with Matalon that Sarah was not to take the drug anymore, she still allegedly prescribed it to her, and on March 25, 2016, Sarah was found dead. It was determined that her death was a result of the drug, and a toxicology report showed that she had “significant levels of fentanyl metabolites in her blood at the time of her death.”
The suit, which was filed in Middlesex County Superior Court, names not only Dr. Vivienne Matalon and Insys Therapeutics as defendants, but also Linden Care, a specialty pharmacy company in Woodbury, NY, who allegedly shipped the drug to Sarah via FedEx, even though they had no right to. The complaint states, “Insys needed a pharmacy to turn a blind eye to what it was doing and dispense Subsys throughout the country.”
New Jersey attorney general Christopher S. Porrino suspended Matalon’s medical license, and in a statement said, “We allege that Dr. Matalon jeopardized her patients’ welfare by ignoring the documented risks associated with Subsys and by flouting the rules for its use.”
The spray is only supposed to be given to cancer patients who are suffering from extreme breakthrough pain and whose bodies are already used to constant opioid therapy.
It was soon brought to light that Sarah was not the only patient who was erroneously prescribed Subsys by the doctor. Two more individuals were found to be victims of Matalon’s irresponsible prescribing, though they did not have the same unfortunate fate as Sarah.
Other Suits Filed Over Drug
New Jersey is not the only state to see a medical professional having issues with Subsys. In New Hampshire, there are now a total of three suits filed against PainCare, a pain management clinic, alleging improper prescribing, as well as “racketeering” amongst medical professionals who may have received “kickbacks” as a result of prescribing the drug. All three suits claim that after the plaintiffs were introduced to Subsys, they went on to combat powerful addictions.
In December 2016, six executives from Insys were indicted on federal charges that they paid “bribes and kickbacks” to doctors who prescribed Subsys. The charges include racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud conspiracy, and wire fraud conspiracy.
Medical Malpractice in NJ
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Jersey is not always easy, and there are very specific guidelines that must always be met.
- Statute of Limitations, or, a deadline, for filing medical malpractice suits, is two years.
- In NJ, the statute of limitations does not officially begin until the victim becomes aware of the injury, or that the injury is due to the doctor’s carelessness. This is known as the discovery rule.
- If the doctor(s) left the state after causing the malpractice, then the statute of limitations may be This can also occur if the victim is found to be mentally ill or disabled
Pain management is extremely crucial for quality of life, and is something that should be taken seriously and professionally. If you or someone you know feels as though they have been taken advantage of, or inappropriately prescribed Subsys or any other kind of drug, call today and speak to one of our experienced attorneys.