Woman Sues Fentanyl Spray Company Over Withdrawal Symptoms


A woman who became addicted to a fentanyl spray that she used for chronic pain is now suing the makers of the product over her painful withdrawal symptoms.

Mackenzie Colby, 36, of Rochester, N.H., became hooked on a powerful painkiller called Subsys, which was approved by the FDA to reduce pain symptoms in cancer patients. Her lawsuit is against Insys Therapeutics, the pharmaceutical company that makes Subsys, along with the physician’s assistant who prescribed it for her and the center where he worked. Filed court documents accuse them of violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act and of medical negligence.

“It alleviated everything, [but] I didn’t know I was addicted until it was too late,” said Colby to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “I didn’t even know I was addicted until it was too late. I am the least likely person. I’m college educated, married 16 years. I have never seen drugs in my life. I own my own home. My husband has a good job.”

Colby’s troubles began after breaking her tailbone in 2007. She underwent surgery five-and-a-half years later, but the procedure left her with chronic pain and she was referred to physician’s assistant Christopher Clough at the PainCare Center in Somersworth.

In November 2014, Clough terminated her Subsys prescription and also cut dosages in half for four other opiates she was using to relieve chronic pain symptoms. Colby asked Clough to wean her off the medications, but he refused. She experienced intense withdrawal symptoms for several months that included vomiting, chills and sweating. However, she has now remained opiate-free for over a year.

“I still have daily pain, but I have a wonderful husband,” she said. “Without him, I don’t think I would have made it through this. Even now, he does a lot; he’s very hands on. He deserves that credit.”

Ironically, Clough was being reviewed at that time by the New Hampshire Board of Medicine for overprescribing opiates and his license was revoked last year. The board’s investigation determined that Clough wrote 83% of all Subsys prescriptions in the state in 2013 and 2014.

The state’s attorney general also noted that Insys paid Clough $44,000 to promote the drug at high-end speaking engagements that investigators referred to as a “sham.” The state ultimately sued Insys and the pharmaceutical company agreed to pay New Hampshire a settlement of $2.95 million.