Friday, May 03, 2019

Billionaire founder of opioid firm guilty of bribing doctors to prescribe drug

Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years for cheating a bunch of rich people out of money. These people face at most 20 years for deliberate actions leading to many, many deaths, for the sake of enriching themselves.

Chris McGreal in Kansas City
Thu 2 May 2019 15.17 EDT

The head of a leading drug manufacturer has been found guilty of bribing doctors to prescribe a dangerous painkiller to patients who did not need it, in the first criminal conviction of a pharma chief over the opioid epidemic.

A Boston jury also found John Kapoor, the 75-year-old billionaire founder of Insys Theraputics, guilty of defrauding insurance companies in the push to sell Subsys, a spray made from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times stronger than morphine.

Subsys was approved for terminal cancer patients but the company targeted sales at a much bigger and more profitable market of people with non-life threatening chronic pain. Prosecutors said that fuelled the opioid epidemic and cost lives.

Four other Insys executives were also convicted on similar racketeering charges after the jury took two weeks to deliberate. They each face up to 20 years in prison.

The convictions will spur demands for executives of other opioid makers to be held to account for an epidemic that has claimed about 400,000 lives over the past two decades.


Kapoor oversaw a marketing strategy at Insys that hired doctors as speakers at educational seminars as cover to pay them more than $1m to prescribe high doses of Subsys to patients who did not need it. Prosecutors said the seminars were no more than social gatherings at expensive New York restaurants followed by company sales reps taking the physicians to strip clubs and bars.


Insys employees also posed as doctors to give insurance companies invented diagnoses to get approval for payments for the drug.


The company’s former vice-president of managed markets, Michael Gurry; its former national sales director, Richard Simon; and two sales directors, Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan, were also convicted.

Several other former Insys executives previously pleaded guilty over the scheme and gave evidence against Kapoor.

Michael Babich, the former Insys CEO, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Babich faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced later this year. Babich’s wife, Natalie Levine, an Insys sales rep, is also awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty over the kickback scheme.

Others convicted include the company’s vice-president of sales, Alec Burlakoff, who told the trial Kapoor devised a sales strategy to target doctors known to dispense opioids without too many questions in so-called “pill mills”.

“Pill mills, for us, meant dollars,” he said.

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