Attorney General Andy Beshear today filed suit against Pennsylvania-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Teva for allegedly promoting its fentanyl-based cancer drugs for “off-label” use in Kentucky, which directly contributed to the state’s addiction outbreak.
The lawsuit, filed in Fayette Circuit Court, claims Teva persuaded physicians to prescribe its drugs, Actiq and Fentora, to treat chronic pain despite the drugs being approved solely for breakthrough pain in cancer patients.
The lawsuit alleges Teva’s salesforce was instructed to target doctors who were not oncologists, including general practitioners. In one instance, a sales representative alleges that 99 percent of the doctors in her territory were pain specialists not oncologists who wrote prescriptions for off-label use.
Beshear said this allowed the company to grow its market in Kentucky while contributing to the state’s drug epidemic. He said Teva had the largest amount of opioids, per gram, sold in Kentucky over a nearly 10-year period.
“The actions by Teva to deceptively push highly-powerful fentanyl-based opioids into a state like Kentucky that’s ravaged by addiction is probably one of the most egregious acts we have seen from a pharmaceutical company that’s heartlessly focused on profits over our people,” Beshear said. “While Teva is predicting $19 billion in revenues this year, we are seeking to hold them accountable under Kentucky law by making them pay for the damages caused to our state and Kentucky families.”
Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than many forms of heroin.
Beshear said in Kentucky and the U.S., overdose deaths related to fentanyl now surpass deaths related to heroin.
According to a July 25, 2018 report released by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, fatal overdoses in Kentucky totaled 1,565 in 2017, which was an 11.5 percent increase over the previous year. Fentanyl was a factor in approximately 763 deaths and 52 percent of the toxicology cases, which is an increase of about 47 percent compared to 2016.
Beshear’s lawsuit claims Teva took steps to conceal its deceptive marketing and unlawful conduct by funding and working through unbranded marketing, third-party advocates and professional associations to promote opioid use.
According to the lawsuit, Teva sales representatives regularly omitted any discussion of addiction caused by long-term opioid use from their sales conversations with Kentucky prescribers, and despite having knowledge of suspicious prescribing, Teva failed to implement policies and procedures that would enable its sales representatives to report this conduct.
One of Teva’s drugs, Actiq, delivers fentanyl into the bloodstream via a lollipop lozenge. It’s other, Fentora, is an oral tablet that also dissolves in a patient’s mouth.
According to the lawsuit, the FDA expressly prohibited Teva from marketing Actiq for anything but breakthrough cancer pain, which is a sudden flare-up of pain. The FDA refused to approve Fentora for the treatment of chronic pain because of the potential harm, including the high risk of “serious and life-threatening adverse events” and abuse, which the agency said are greatest in non-cancer patients.
In 2008, the Department of Justice accused Cephalon, a Teva subsidiary, of promoting Actiq for uses the FDA had not approved. Cephalon settled the charges for $425 million. The federal government charged that Cephalon promoted Actiq to non-cancer patients for conditions such as “migraines, sickle-cell pain crises, injuries, and in anticipation of changing wound dressings or radiation therapy.”
“Teva has not changed its ways or corrected its past misconduct but instead is continuing to fuel our opioid crisis,” Beshear said.
Beshear said the opioid crisis is having a devastating effect on Kentucky’s workforce. Recent research has demonstrated that the Commonwealth’s high rate of opioid usage has reduced the workforce, created high turnover, increased employers’ costs to train new employees and caused an increase in employee thefts.
Today’s lawsuit is the eighth opioid related lawsuit Beshear has filed.
Beshear has sued three national opioid distributors, Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen, Ohio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation, which together are responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky; distributor and retail pharmacy Walgreens; and pharmaceutical manufacturers Johnson and Johnson, Mallinckrodt, and Endo Pharmaceuticals.
A Franklin Circuit Judge ruled that he would not dismiss Beshear’s 2017 lawsuit against Endo. Beshear recently announced that his office has won fights to keep four of his current opioid lawsuits in Kentucky courts, and that Kentuckians can track the progress of each case by visiting ag.ky.gov.
Beshear is once again calling on lawmakers to create a permanent trust fund to battle addiction in Kentucky. He is working with Rep. Dennis Keene, of Wilder, on legislation that requires funds recovered by the Commonwealth from lawsuits, fines or settlements related to the drug epidemic to only be spent addressing the needs of Kentucky’s drug prevention educators, law enforcement and treatment providers.
Beshear has provided $8 million from a pharmaceutical settlement to 15 substance abuse treatment centers.
And he has launched the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. The program has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids and help to reduce the nearly 80 percent of heroin users who begin their addiction with prescription drugs.
As part of his Mission Veterans Protected program, Attorney General Andy Beshear is calling on the federal government to better protect Kentucky military families against the onslaught of predatory lenders.
Beshear and a group of state attorneys general are asking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to reconsider its reported decision to stop examining lenders to ensure they comply with the Military Lending Act of 2006.
The act protects military service members and their families from exploitative lenders and loans so that they are not overburdened with debt. The bureau has the authority to examine lenders’ compliance with the act to detect potential risks to Kentuckians and ensure that military service members aren’t being offered illegal loans.
Beshear said this is especially important for younger service members who have less experience managing their own finances and may be more vulnerable to predatory loans.
“As attorney general, my mission is to protect Kentucky’s military families from consumer fraud, especially the ongoing deception by predatory lenders,” Beshear said. “We must do everything in our power to ensure our military service members and veterans aren’t bombarded from those who would steal their savings or pensions.”
Beshear said approximately 60 percent of military families report experiencing stress related to their financial condition. Service members in financial distress may have their security clearance revoked and be compelled to leave the military, resulting in the loss of well-trained service members and additional financial burdens for the military.
Beshear created “Mission Veterans Protected” (MVP) aimed at helping Kentucky’s veteran community combat the findings in an AARP study where veterans are twice as likely to fall victim to fraud when compared to nonveterans.
“Mission Veterans Protected” is the latest step Beshear has taken to both stop con artists and help protect veterans.
Most recently, Beshear announced his office joined other state AGs in shuttering the doors of a charity, VietNow National Headquarters Inc., who misled thousands of donors by claiming contributions supported local veterans.
His office also secured federal debt relief for approximately 2,000 Kentuckians, most of them veterans, who were victimized by predatory practices by Corinthian Colleges Inc.
Attorney General Andy Beshear says a Kansas man who attempted to purchase a Kentucky child online for $500 and drugs earlier this year was sentenced to five years and designated a lifetime sex offender.
Ernest Merle John Anziana, 49, of Fredonia, Kansas, was sentenced Oct. 19 in Franklin Circuit Court to five counts of unlawful use of electronic means originating or received within the Commonwealth of Kentucky to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities, all Class D felonies; and one count of promoting human trafficking, a Class C felony.
After release from prison, Anziana is required to register as a lifetime sex offender and must complete an approved sex offender treatment program. He will be under post-incarceration supervision as a sex offender.
The investigation began early in 2018 when Beshear’s Cyber Crimes Unit obtained information that Anziana was attempting to solicit sex from an underage child in Kentucky and offered to purchase the child for $500 and 7 grams of methamphetamine.
Following the unit’s lead, the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office out of Kansas traced the information back to Anziana.
Anziana was also charged with solicitation to commit human trafficking in Greenwood County, which is located in the southeast portion of Kansas nearly 700 miles from Frankfort.
Anziana was indicted in Franklin Circuit Court Feb. 6, 2018, and was served with the indictment warrant in Kansas Feb. 7, 2018 when he was arrested. He was extradited to Kentucky, and his bond was set at $500,000.
“The details involved in this case are disturbing, yet our office encounters human trafficking cases in every county, city and community across Kentucky,” Beshear said. “Human trafficking represents the worst form of abuse, most often in children, like we have in this case. Every part of my office is committed to investigating and prosecuting predators seeking to harm our children and families. I want to thank our cyber investigators, the team at the Greenwood County Sheriff’s office, and the Franklin Commonwealth’s Attorney for prosecuting the case.”
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Zachary Becker prosecuted the case.
Beshear created the Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention when he entered office. The office, along with the Department of Criminal Investigations, has 15 open human trafficking cases, and over the course of 2018 the offices have been involved in 31 arrests or citations involving the crime.
Upon taking office in 2016, Beshear teamed up with Catholic Charities of Louisville to secure a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant to help train law enforcement, increase victim services and hire the state’s first full-time human trafficking investigator.
In February, the office secured a 20-year sentence against former Campbell County District Judge Timothy Nolan on numerous felony charges, including human trafficking of adults and minors.
Last month, Beshear joined Rep. Dennis Keene, of Wilder, to announce legislation that would grant the Office of the Attorney General the ability to investigate crimes, like human trafficking, that can occur across multiple jurisdictions.
If a human trafficking victim is in immediate danger dial 911 or report suspected human trafficking of a child to 877-KYSAFE1. Victims of human trafficking may call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
Artwork submitted by a student at Asbury Theological Seminary has been selected to represent the Kentucky Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today.
Nicholas T. Porritt, a second-year marriage and family therapy masters student at Asbury, won a competition hosted by Beshear to raise awareness of human trafficking by creating a logo for the task force.
Monday in Frankfort, Beshear presented Porritt with a grant-funded $1,000 scholarship and congratulated him for being selected to help Kentuckians better identify the work the task force is doing to combat human trafficking.
Beshear said Porritt’s undergraduate roommate, who runs a safe house in Malawi and helps victims of sex trafficking, served as inspiration for the design.
“I applaud Nicholas for his outstanding design that focuses on the positive reality of a life filled with hope, peace and freedom – a message that resonates with victims of human trafficking,” Beshear said. “Providing victims a way out is what drives us each day in the AG’s office. We are working with our law enforcement and community partners to arrest traffickers and help victims find hope.”
Porritt said he wants his art to help people find hope, much like how art has helped him find hope.
“I believe that all of the qualities of this logo will help those who are in this situation to see a symbol of what can be,” Porritt said. “It’s not a reflection of the struggle and pain they are in, but hope for where they will be and what they can expect of this trafficking task force.”
Porritt’s design uses a dove to symbolize freedom, peace and hope. The bird is made to look like green leaves to symbolize growth, endurance and nourishment. The olive branch symbolizes freedom as well as a place to find stability. The yellow background is symbolic of the sun and evokes growth and life.
In September, Beshear launched the logo initiative with state and local partners to help support the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, which Beshear’s office and Catholic Charities of Louisville co-chair.
Primary task force partners include the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, Kentucky State Police and Lexington Police Department. Overall membership of the task force includes nearly 50 agencies.
All high school juniors and seniors, and all college students were invited to enter the competition. A random panel of members of the Kentucky Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force chose the winning logo. The panel included law enforcement, victim advocates and survivor leaders.
Beshear said human trafficking is the second-largest criminal enterprise in the world and the Office of the Attorney General is focused on raising awareness of the crime, helping victims and prosecuting traffickers.
Beshear’s Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution operates to assist victims, prosecutors and law enforcement across the state in identifying and responding to these cases and leads the efforts of the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force.
The Office of Victims Advocacy provides direct advocacy services to victims of trafficking as they work to navigate the legal system and find healing and recovery from the trauma.
Beshear’s office and Catholic Charities of Louisville received a federal grant that has allowed the hiring of the state’s first full-time human trafficking investigator and training of more than 5,000 law enforcement officers, health care employees, first responders, inspectors and community members across the state.
Beshear’s office currently has 15 open human trafficking cases, and over the course of 2018, the office has been involved in 31 arrests or citations involving the crime. In February, the office secured a 20-year sentence against former Campbell County District Judge Timothy Nolan on numerous felony charges, including human trafficking of adults and minors.
Last month, Beshear joined Rep. Dennis Keene, of Wilder, to announce legislation that would grant the Office of the Attorney General the ability to investigate crimes, like human trafficking, throughout multiple jurisdictions in the state.
If a human trafficking victim is in immediate danger dial 911 and report suspected human trafficking of a child to 877-KYSAFE1. Victims of human trafficking may call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
A 65-year-old Texas man was arrested Oct. 19 at the Lexington Blue Grass Airport after he traveled 900 miles to engage in what he thought was sex with two children under the age of 12, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today.
Beshear’s cyber investigators, Kentucky State Police and airport police intercepted and arrested Gregory Lee Hruby Friday night and charged him with four counts of unlawful use of electronic means originating or received within the Commonwealth of Kentucky to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities, all Class D felonies.
Hruby, of Brazoria, Texas, which is near Houston, was taken to the Fayette County Detention Center. His bail was set at $100,000, and if he posts bail, he is required to wear an ankle monitor, Beshear said.
“The Attorney General is the chief advocate and protector for our Kentucky families, and it’s our job to ensure our communities are safe by taking off the streets anyone who would actively seek to sexually abuse any child, especially a child from Kentucky,” Beshear said. “I appreciate the hard work of our cyber investigators, KSP and officials at the Blue Grass Airport for teaming up and stopping this individual.”
Hruby’s arrest and charges were part of a lengthy undercover investigation by Beshear’s Department of Criminal Investigations, Cyber Crimes Unit, whose work to protect Kentucky families from cyber predators has reached historic levels with more arrests than ever before.
The Cyber Crimes Unit is part of the Kentucky Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that works to reduce the number of child predators going after Kentucky’s most vulnerable children.
With the ever-changing cyber landscape, the unit is dedicated to educating its detectives on the most current techniques and technologies to keep pace with those seeking to harm children.
The Office of the Attorney General also makes it a priority to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, parents, children and caregivers on dangers of the internet.
To help keep children safe online, the office has collaborated with Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky to offer statewide trainings.
Beshear said the trainings offer a free Internet Safety Toolkit, which he said every Kentuckian could access online to obtain information that can protect children from cyber bullying to online predators.
Report any instance of child abuse to local law enforcement or to Kentucky’s Child Abuse hotline at 877-597-2331 or 877-KYSAFE1.
As Election Day approaches, Kentuckians may be receiving calls from candidates, political organizations and now scammers, according to Attorney General Andy Beshear.
Beshear issued a scam alert Wednesday to help Kentuckians avoid providing their personal information over the phone to a scammer who claims he or she can help Kentuckians register to vote or vote by absentee ballot.
Beshear said the National Association of State Election Directors issued a warning after voters in Mississippi said scammers were calling pretending to be employees of TurboVote, a legitimate voter registration service, requesting Social Security and driver’s license numbers.
Mississippi officials confirmed that the calls are not affiliated with the organization, Beshear said.
“Kentuckians cannot register to vote over the phone,” Beshear said. “If someone calls you and asks for your personal information to supposedly help you register to vote or obtain an absentee ballot – hang up – it is likely a scam.”
The deadline to register to vote in Kentucky for the Nov. 6, 2018, election was Oct. 9.
For future election cycles, Kentuckians should visit the Kentucky State Board of Elections website for systematic instructions and registration options, including submitting a form online, through the mail or in person at a county clerk’s office.
If eligible, Kentuckians may cast an absentee ballot by mail or in the County Clerk’s office before Election Day. According to the state’s website absentee ballots can only be obtained by contacting the County Clerk’s office.
Beshear said Kentuckians should stay on alert for the scam calls through Election Day.
Beshear said if Kentuckians are receiving these scam calls, they should report them to his office via an online form.
Kentuckians can also report election irregularities or possible election law violations to Beshear’s office at 800-328-VOTE (800-328-8683). The hotline is open during regular business hours and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Eastern time) on Election Day.
Beshear’s Special Prosecutions Unit coordinates election monitoring with the State Board of Elections, Secretary of State’s Office, Kentucky State Police, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. This monitoring looks at not only primary and general elections, but also special elections held throughout the Commonwealth. Several employees within the office participated in the Election Integrity Task Force with those agencies to enhance the coordinated efforts of all agencies to combat election fraud.
Since taking office Beshear has been working to protect Kentucky families from scams by issuing an alert when new and trending scams are reported in the Commonwealth.
Beshear recommends all Kentuckians stay ahead of scammers by signing up for his office’s Scam Alerts. To enroll text the words KYOAG Scam to GOV-311 (468-311) or sign up online at ag.ky.gov/scams and select text message or email alert.
Attorney General Andy Beshear announced that a Grayson Rite Aid Pharmacy manager has been indicted for allegedly dispensing a controlled substance without a proper doctor’s prescription and for falsifying pharmacy medical records.
Tommy Dearfield Jr., 30, of Ashland, received a 37-count indictment by a Carter County grand jury Oct. 5 for alleged illegal conduct in 2017 as pharmacy manager.
Beshear’s detectives and members of the Grayson Police Department arrested Dearfield Oct. 12. He was lodged in the Carter County Detention Center.
The investigation was conducted by Beshear’s Department of Criminal Investigations with assistance by the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy and Rite Aid Loss Prevention.
Beshear said Dearfield voluntarily surrendered his pharmacy license during the course of the investigation.
Dearfield is scheduled to appear in Carter Circuit Court at 9 a.m. on Nov. 5.