Drug Company Founder, Execs Convicted of Bribe Scheme That Fueled U.S. Opioid Crisis

By Nate Raymond

May 04, 2019

BOSTON (Reuters) - The founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc and four colleagues were found guilty on Thursday of bribing doctors to prescribe the drugmaker's addictive painkiller, helping to drive the U.S. opioid drug abuse crisis.

A federal jury in Boston found John Kapoor, who served as the Chandler, Arizona-based drugmaker's chairman, and his co-defendants guilty of racketeering conspiracy for a scheme that also misled insurers into paying for the drug.

Kapoor, 75, is the highest-ranking pharmaceutical executive convicted in a case tied to a drug crisis that has led to tens of thousands of overdose deaths annually. His 2017 arrest came the same day U.S. President Donald Trump declared the epidemic a public health emergency.

Prosecutors charged that Kapoor oversaw a wide-ranging scheme to bribe doctors nationwide by retaining them to act as speakers at sham events at restaurants ostensibly meant to educate clinicians about its fentanyl spray, Subsys.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Subsys in 2012 only for use in treating severe pain in cancer patients. Yet prosecutors claimed doctors who took bribes often prescribed Subsys to patients without cancer, helping boost sales for Insys.

Prosecutors said Kapoor also directed efforts to defraud insurers into paying for the drug. His co-defendants include former Insys executives and managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan.

All five pleaded not guilty and denied wrongdoing. Lawyers for Kapoor at trial acknowledged that Insys paid doctors but contended that Kapoor believed they really were being paid to talk up the product's benefits.