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The family of a New Jersey woman who died after using a prescription version of the potent opioid fentanyl filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against the drug’s maker, her doctor, and a specialty pharmacy that provided the drug.

The lawsuit, filed in a New Jersey state court, alleges 32-year-old Sarah Fuller was the victim of a nationwide push by Insys Therapeutics to entice doctors to prescribe its Subsys fentanyl spray for patients for which the drug was not suitable.


“Insys infiltrated the medical community with lies, misinformation, kickbacks and financial rewards which led to a large span of the medical community to prescribe Subsys for off-label indications for which there was no proven safe use,” according to the complaint. Insys did not respond to a request for comment.

Subsys is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for patients with cancer who suffer from breakthrough pain that doesn’t respond to other treatments, though physicians are permitted to prescribe drugs for unapproved, or “off-label” uses. Fuller did not have cancer, and her doctor nevertheless prescribed it to her. At the time of her death, she was taking a heavy dose of the drug around-the-clock.

The lawsuit also accuses a specialty pharmacy company, Linden Care of Woodbury, N.Y., of abetting the effort by Insys to push the use of Subsys in patients who did not have cancer. The lawsuit claims the pharmacy company, which shipped Subsys to Fuller via FedEx, should not have dispensed the drug to her. Fuller’s family claims the pharmacy company did not have possession of the original prescription as required and was mandated by a special federal program to only dispense the drug to patients with breakthrough pain due to cancer.


“Insys needed a pharmacy to turn a blind eye to what it was doing and dispense Subsys throughout the country,” the complaint alleges. Linden Care declined comment.

Fuller became a patient of Dr. Vivienne Matalon in August 2014. At the time, Fuller was not taking any narcotic medications for the pain caused by two auto accidents. By October, according to the complaint, Matalon had Fuller on a regimen of oxycodone and OxyContin. In January 2015, Fuller and her father met with Matalon at her office. Also in the room was an Insys saleswoman, who was there to convince Fuller that Subsys would help treat her neck and back pain, the lawsuit charges.

She was prescribed the drug, and within three weeks, her dosage was tripled in strength. In October 2015, Fuller was admitted to the hospital, suffering from “hyper-sedation,” according to the lawsuit. She was immediately taken off Subsys and at discharge was told to discontinue use of it, along with weaning herself off OxyContin. Despite Matalon being notified by the hospital of the event and the instructions for Fuller, the lawsuit claims the doctor again prescribed Subsys for Fuller.

On March 25, 2016, Fuller died as a result of taking Subsys and the anti-anxiety medication alprazolam, the lawsuit charges. Both were prescribed by Matalon.

In the wake of the Fuller case, the New Jersey attorney general accused Matalon of “indiscriminately” prescribing Subsys and she agreed to a suspension of her medical license while her conduct is investigated by the state medical board. Attempts to contact Matalon’s attorney for comment were unsuccessful.

  • Such a complicated issue. Pain, like love or grief, often is invisible. It is clear they overprescribed for this young person.
    I am seventy and have been in severe pain from a number of health conditions. If the gov’t had its way and cut off Pain medication or narcotics, I’d be completely nonfunctional and my life and living would be over. As it is the effort to stay on the management dose is a fight with the professionals unless they see an MRI or some very rare bloodwork. Most do not take time to look at records. Luckily I received the same award as E O Wilson and others my doc admires and I did it on my pain meds. Otherwise the work would never have been accomplished, so I finally do get medication more easily. But what about other people who aren’t so fortunate? When I think about others who suffer pain, my heart breaks. And all because of a few bad doctors or abusers of pain medications who have created this situation for the rest of us.

  • Easy for all of you to call the woman ignorant, but everyone does place blame on Dr, Pharmacy, Drug Company -when no one forces anyone to go to a certain Dr, Pharmacy, or take meds they prescribe.
    Ive unfortunately buried 2-3 friends & family members a year over past 20 years because of opioids/opiates & benzos, they are sooooo addictive. They ruin lives long before death (benzodiazepines are worse imho & mixing the 2 is asking for an overdose).
    *Addiction is an illness & needs to be addressed -but NO ONE FORCES ANYONE TO TAKE THEM!
    My Mom is a Radiation Therapist & its so sad how people suffering from really bad cancer & other illnesses that have to jump thru hoops to get ANY PAIN RELIEF DUE TO GOVERNMENT NOW IN OUR DOCTORS OFFICES & its not right (funny how everyone thinks government is full of morons -till they think ANOTHER LAW, REGULATION IS NEEDED, its utter foolishness). This is partly because of the few Doctors who did over or unnecessarily prescribe narcotics (in 45 years Ive NEVER EVER had a Doctor offer me opiates & actually most told me they wont prescribe them -as far back as 1999), so other than pill mills & the errant ‘bad guys’ all these script crazy docs are a media myth, government bs (just like the benzo epidemic getting swept under rug)
    **I also have many friends & family members in pain -from surgeries, illnesses etc.. who say to the Doctor ‘Dont even put pen to paper, Im not even risking taking those -I’ll do Advil or Tylenol & only come in for narcotics if I absolutely cant take it’!
    When the Doctor, rightfully, is about to write a script for say 20 percocets!
    **Everyone has the right & SHOULD advocate for their own care & question the Doctor -and get another Doctor if that one doesn’t like it or won’t say why they’re prescribing something!
    Personal responsibility really needs to make a comeback -unfortunately I don’t see that happening….

    • When an opiate drug passes the FDA the reps usually overstate the drugs benefits and get a handsome bonus for strong sales. Doctors are targeted by pharma companies for marketing based on their prescribing habits. Many patients get sucked into the pain mill by innocently getting started on opiates( should’ve last resort) for legitimate Pain, then buildtokerance so need higher doses and shortly become addicted. Patients are usually aware of their overuse and all too often beg the doctor and whethat doesn’t work become doctor dhoppers, players or street buyers. In most cases I’ve seen in the pharmacy the patient and family play some responsibility. So when people die from OD itspart of the chronic, terminal disease of addiction. To get better they need an intervention then need to take responsibility. More often Death I’d the outcome vs recovery.

  • As a pharmacist I would have counselled the patient on the dangers of her prescriptions. The physician is also at fault and quite possibly the patient may have been playing the doctor about her pain. Opiates are killers and often lead to Heroin use. Pain Management doctors and mail order pharmacies who just bill and ship anything must be held accountable.

    • EXCUSE ME!!

      I am ill from an extremely rare illness, a/k/a an “orphan illness.” After undergoing clinical trials for almost 2 years, and seeing that nothing else helped the hellish break through pain (it is like the transitional part of active labor, pitocin induced), my doctor gave me a responsible amount of Fentanyl for the pain. The bad guys or irresponsible people will always get the drugs and guns on the black market. Responsible people like myself, who have no cure, and would spend their life in paralysis and in the harshest pain without the Fentanyl, no one speaks about or gives a damn about. Why is that righteous and just?

      Abusers can abuse products in many ways. There is a warning label on my favorite heavy duty stain cleaner, Lestoil, never to ingest. I would NEVER dream of doing such a foolish thing. Other people have, and also have done it with glue, etc. and other products.

      The United States is becoming more and more of a Nanny Regime every day. This was not the vision of our Founding Fathers, nor was it the raison d’etre (pronounced rai·son d’ê·tre), for this country’s Founding and existence!!

  • All patients should double check every prescription with the pharmacist before taking or filling a prescription. Just because the doctor prescribed it doesn’t mean you should take it. Always do your homework. Before you take any medication talk to your pharmacist and if it sounds to good to be true ( copays) then it probably is. Her death was unfortunate and preventable. Was she opioid tolerant? Who checked? Who verified the prescription? This is unacceptable. Big money claiming life once again. What a pity

  • Patient should told dr meds were to much for her,due to her age her family should have controlled her meds talked to her dr.dont blame the dr.patients & families need to talk to drs.They don’t know if no one tells them.stop blaming dr.If there’s no communication dr don’t know.patient family need to tell dr that patient is to medicated .dr don’t know if not told

    • Unfortunately, industry supporters and pain society lobbyists feel free to comment on who is to blame in order to divert attention from the astounding number of people that die from their products and influence. How terrible that she died. I hope we can change things because the status quo is killing us.

    • Easy to say, as one of the family members of which you speak you know nothing of the situation just what you think you know. She was a caring, giving individual who did not deserve to go out like that. So next time you want to state an arrogant opinion with your misguided thought process know the facts.

      Now to the issue…A Prudent Physician DO NOT START A PATIENT THAT HAS NEVER HAD ANY PAIN MEDICATION AT THE TOP OF THE MOST LETHAL PAIN MEDICATION YOU CAN PRESCRIBE THEN ADD ALPRAZOLAM which is generic XANAX A SEDATIVE with it! That’s a train wreck waiting to happen. MOST PEOPLE TRUST THEIR DR’S AND TAKE WHATS GIVEN, AS CLEARLY JUST WHAT THIS YOUNG LADY DID. A Dr takes a HYPOCRATIC OATH first do no harm and sadly as with this Dr she took a HYPOCRITE’S OATH AND TURNED A BLIND EYE TO IT ALL. THERE WERE ALOT OF RED FLAGS to clearly show she was over sedated when it was tripled. Withdrawal Syndrome is a beast and I’m sure it drove her back to it, she needed to be put on LOW DOSE PAIN MEDS like DARVOCET, VICODIN, EVEN PERCODAN(CET) would have addressed all issues of pain and withdrawal because her body needed something. NO BODY EVEN LOOKED AT IF SHE SUFFERED FROM CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROME?? THE BODY STARTS REACTING AGAINST YOU BECAUSE IT USE TO THE PAIN MEDS. When they put you on these drugs then pull you off without a plan the body goes into a shock beyond any magnitude of being in pain you couldn’t even imagine! This is why ALOT of ppl turn to the streets but in this young ladies case clearly a tragedy! The Doctor, the Pharmacy, and ESPECIALLY the drug rep and Drug Company that pushed this drug which I’m sure all were getting their pockets lined need to have their licenses GONE and POCKETS BROKEN BY RESTITUTION TO THIS FAMILY! THE LIABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY FIRST LIES WITH THE PHYSICIAN! To be informed, to research to know,then inform the PATIENTS. The Pharmacy that she used should know what drugs are a deadly combination together. God help the reps they CLEARLY DONT GIVE A DAMN, ITS ABOUT MONEY, COMMISSIONS, AND LIFE JUST DONT MATTER AS LONG AS THEY GET A SALE AND ITS ALL UNACCEPTABLE. POINT BLANK PERIOD. EYES NEED TO BE OPEN BECAUSE YES, LIVES ARE BEING LOST and IM AT THE OTHER END OF THE SCOPE SUFFERING FROM CHRONIC PAIN BECAUSE OF WHAT THESE IDIOTS ARE DOING WRONG TO PPL. GOD HELP US ALL TO A SOLUTION, AND GOD BLESS US ALL WITH NO LIVES LOST EITHER WAY…AMEN

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