The painkiller Subsys can have fatal consequences if misused, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office said Monday as it accused a South Jersey doctor of giving the medication to a patient who did not qualify for it and later died.
The state has sought to suspend the license of Vivienne Matalon, who has offices in Cherry Hill and Camden. She did not return a call Monday. Authorities said she prescribed Subsys, which treats breakthrough pain in cancer patients, to a 32-year-old woman who did not have cancer.
The woman, identified by authorities only as "S.F.," took the medication from January 2015 until her death in March this year. An autopsy determined that she had died from an "adverse effect of drugs" and that she had high levels of fentanyl metabolites in her system, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office said.
Subsys is a spray form of fentanyl, a painkiller, authorities said.
"We're warning everyone - doctors and patients alike - that Subsys is a fast-acting, extremely powerful drug approved only for a narrow purpose - to relieve breakthrough cancer pain," Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said in a statement. "Given this risk, I have instructed the Division of Consumer Affairs to investigate the potential misuse of this highly addictive medication by other providers."
The division is reviewing patient records from at least a dozen doctors across the state to determine whether they properly prescribed Subsys, Porrino said.
Steve Lee, the division's director, said in a statement it is "egregious and reckless" for doctors to give Subsys to patients who should not take it.
"Doctors who prescribe Subsys for nonapproved uses are deviating from the well-established standard of care regarding this drug and exposing their patients to grave risk of serious harm," including addiction and overdose, Lee said.