Craig F. Walker | Boston Globe | Getty Images

John N. Kapoor, left, a defendant in the Insys trial, departs the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on Jan. 29, 2019.

Insys Therapeutics said it tapped Lazard to advise the drugmaker on its plans to explore strategic options and is in talks to divest its fentanyl sublingual spray Subsys, sending the company’s shares down 15 percent in after-hours trading.

The company said in November it would review strategic alternatives for its portfolio of opioid-related assets, including Subsys.

“We are in active negotiations with multiple parties regarding the potential divestiture of Subsys,” Chief Executive Saeed Motahari said on Thursday, adding the company expects the transaction to require shareholder approval.

The potential divestiture process is being led by JMP Securities, a company spokeswoman said. “We engaged Lazard thereafter to advise us on our capital planning and strategic alternatives across the business. These are two independent efforts.”

The news came amid an ongoing trial in federal court in Boston of five former Insys executives and managers including wealthy founder John Kapoor, who prosecutors allege engaged in a scheme to pay doctors bribes to prescribe Subsys.

Prosecutors allege that Insys from 2012 to 2015 paid doctors kickbacks in the form of fees to participate in speaker programs ostensibly meant to educate medical professionals about Subsys that were poorly attended sham events.

Kapoor, Insys’ former chairman who also served as CEO from November 2015 to January 2017, and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors brought the case amid a national opioid addiction epidemic. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in around 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017.

In August, Insys said it had agreed to pay at least $150 million to resolve a related U.S. Justice Department probe.

On Monday, Reuters reported that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is exploring filing for bankruptcy to address potentially significant liabilities from roughly 2,000 lawsuits alleging the drugmaker contributed to the deadly opioid crisis sweeping the United States.

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