Home>Governor>Grewal seeks to revoke Roque medical license over alleged improper opioid prescriptions

Former West New York Mayor Felix Roque. (Photo: Nikita Biryukov for the New Jersey Globe)

Grewal seeks to revoke Roque medical license over alleged improper opioid prescriptions

Former West New York mayor accused of prescribing fentanyl spray in ways not approved by FDA

By Nikita Biryukov, November 23 2020 1:32 pm

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office announced complaints against former West New York Mayor Felix Roque and three other physicians for allegedly writing off-label prescriptions of a high-powered opioid after receiving payments from the drug’s manufacturer.

Roque and physicians Serge Menkin, Kieran Slevin and Mukaram Gazi are alleged to have improperly prescribed Subsys, a fentanyl sprat approved only for certain cancer patients with opioid tolerances, after each receiving more than $50,000 from the firm.

“We will hold accountable all those whose misconduct has helped fuel the opioid epidemic in New Jersey,” Grewal said. “Today, we’re taking action against multiple doctors who sold their medical licenses and prescription pads to Insys and put their personal financial interests above their patients’ health and well-being.”

Roque, a pain management specialist, is accused of accepting more than $53,000 in speaker’s fees from Insys, on top of additional funds for food and travel. The state’s complaint says the former mayor began prescribing the drug only after the first paid for his stay at a luxury hotel in Arizona, where he attended a conference on the firm’s dime.

The complaint said one of Roque’s patients overdosed on Subsys prescription he issued. It’s not clear whether that prescription complied with Food and Drug Administration rules.

The state is seeking to suspend or revoke the medical licenses of Roque and the other three doctors, whose medical records authorities said showed little or no justification for why patients were prescribed the more potent opioid.

Assistant Section Chief David Puteska is representing the case against Roque.

The state has a lawsuit pending against Insys Founder John Kapoor that claims he directed and approved bribes to Garden State doctors through the firm’s speaker program to prompt inappropriate Subsys prescriptions.

“These five doctors acknowledged that they had read the risks associated with Subsys and understood that it was approved only for narrow uses as a cancer pain medication,” said Sharon Joyce, Director of NJ CARES. “Nevertheless, they chose to ignore the unequivocal risks to their patients in favor of the easy money Insys was offering. Their unsavory collaboration with Insys endangered their patients and undermined efforts to end the opioid crisis and prevent more lives from being lost.”

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