An infamous Arizona pharmaceutical company that spent a half million dollars fighting the state’s marijuana legalization efforts has just received approval from the DEA for its synthetic substitute for the natural plant.
Insys Therapeutics, Inc. is the producer of Syndros, an oral spray that contains THC. The drug is used to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer patients, as well as weight loss in those battling AIDS.
Syndros is a brand name for the company’s formulation of the generic drug dronabinol, which has been available since 1985 as a capsule under the brand name Marinol.
In 2016, Insys donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, a group campaigning against Proposition 205, which would have legalized adult recreational use of marijuana in Arizona. The proposition failed to pass by a 52 percent-48 percent vote in last November’s election.
During the campaign, the company said the measure wouldn’t “protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens.”
Interestingly, Syndros has been determined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to have a higher potential for abuse than Marinol. The DEA, in its announcement of the approval of Syndros, noted “HHS stated that the abuse potential of dronabinol oral solution is similar to that of other THC containing products such as concentrates, infused edibles and drinks.”
In a press release from Insys announcing the approval, the company shared its plans for the new drug:
“Insys expects to convert a large portion of the (dronabinol) market to Syndros, as well as expand the market through direct detailing to physicians, highlighting the improved product profile of Syndros.”
The company’s previous drug marketing efforts, however, have a shady history.
The only other product manufactured by Insys, Subsys, is an oral form of the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Fentanyl, in its various forms, is responsible for thousands of overdose deaths in the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic in the United States.
In December 2016, former Insys CEO Michael Babich and six other Insys executives were arrested for allegedly bribing doctors to prescribe the drug and defrauding insurance providers as part of their aggressive promotion to push sales of Subsys. The case is still pending.