By Alanna Durkin Richer, Associated Press
(AP) — A pharmaceutical company founder accused of paying doctors millions in bribes to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray was convicted Thursday.
John Kapoor, the 76-year-old former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy after 15 days of jury deliberations. Four ex-employees of the Chandler, Arizona-based company, including a former stripper-turned-sales-rep, were also convicted.
Federal prosecutors portrayed the case as part of the government’s effort to go after those it views as responsible for fueling the nation’s deadly opioid crisis.
“This is a landmark prosecution that vindicated the public’s interest in stanching the flow of opioids into our homes and streets,” Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.
Kapoor and the others were accused of scheming to bribe doctors across the U.S. to boost sales of the drug Subsys and misleading insurers to get payment approved for the drug, which is meant for cancer patients in severe pain and can cost as much as $19,000 a month, according to prosecutors. The bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking engagements that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.
The charges carry up to 20 years in prison.
Several doctors have been convicted in other cases of participating in a kickback scheme. A number of states have sued the Insys, which also agreed last year to pay $150 million to settle a federal investigation into inappropriate sales.
In 2016, Insys Therapeutics donated $500,000 to help defeat Prop 205, the recreational cannabis initiative in Arizona. Then, in 2017, Insys (shockingly) received FDA approval to distribute Syndros, a synthetic form of THC that the company secretly developed.
AP Photo Steven Senne