Another lawsuit was filed this week in Johnson County accusing Overland Park doctor Steven Simon of being part of a national scheme to take kickbacks from a pharmaceutical company in exchange for prescribing the company’s powerful fentanyl spray.
The suit was filed on behalf of Cynthia L. Hanson, a former patient of Simon, and it’s largely the same as two other suits filed in Johnson County by the same attorneys last year on behalf of two other former patients. They also filed suit in Leavenworth County in January on behalf of a Tonganoxie man whose wife died of a fentanyl overdose in 2014 while Simon was treating her for back pain.
Hanson’s suit says she started seeing Simon in 2014 and he put her on the fentanyl spray, Subsys, in 2015.
“Dr. Simon and Nurse (Donna) Ruck aggressively pushed for the continued use and increasing doses of Subsys consistent with the Subsys marketing program instead of exploring other, non-narcotic pain options,” the suit alleges.
Lawyers for Hanson, Simon and Ruck didn’t respond to requests for comment sent Thursday.
Hanson’s suit, like the others, alleges that Simon didn’t inform her of the risks of overdose and addiction that come with oral fentanyl, a highly concentrated opioid, or that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved Subsys for treating “breakthrough cancer pain.”
Instead, the suit alleges that Simon “expressly and falsely represented to the Plaintiff that the fact she previously had cancer qualified her to use Subsys.”
The cancer pain issue is one of the key points of the controversy over Subsys and its Arizona-based manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and several whistleblower lawsuits, Insys encouraged doctors to prescribe Subsys “off-label” for people who didn’t have active cancer to expand the market for the drug.
The company then allegedly used its speaker program to pay kickbacks to doctors based on how much Subsys they prescribed.
The Star reported last year that Simon was the top-paid Subsys speaker in Kansas and among the top 10 nationwide, taking in more than $200,000 from 2013 to 2015.
Three weeks later the FBI served a search warrant at Simon’s clinic, and Simon’s former partner told The Star that federal agents seized patient records for everyone for whom Simon prescribed oral fentanyl.
Simon has not been charged with any crimes.
Federal prosecutors have levied criminal charges against a half-dozen Insys executives and the company’s billionaire founder, John Kapoor. They’ve pleaded not guilty.
Kapoor and several others are also named as defendants in the suits against Simon.
Lawsuits unsealed in May revealed that the Insys sales rep who frequented Simon’s office, Torgny Andersson, was one of several whisteblowers who helped the feds build their case.
Andersson’s lawyer, Brian Madden, said Andersson had been feeding the Justice Department information since October 2013. Andersson is also named as a defendant in the lawsuits against Simon, but Madden has declined to comment further.