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Billionaire Founder Of Opioid Firm Guilty Of Bribing Doctors To Prescribe Drug

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


The Guardian
Chris McGreal in Kansas City
3 hrs ago


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.

Drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies are already facing hundreds of civil lawsuits by states and cities seeking to recover the costs of the epidemic on public finances, from increased crime to addiction treatment and care for orphaned children. On Thursday, the drug distributor, McKesson, agreed to pay West Virginia $37m to settle a lawsuit over flooding the state with millions of opioid pills without abiding by proper controls.

Related: 'I don’t want to overdose and die:' one woman's death, one country's shame

But there is mounting anger that corporations have spent years paying civil settlements as “the cost of doing business” while continuing to rake in huge profits by illegally pushing the mass prescribing of the drugs or failing to obey laws intended to prevent their misuse. Political leaders in some of the worst-hit parts of the country have called for criminal prosecutions of the executives who made the decisions calling them “drug dealers in Armani suits”.

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.

Prosecutors showed the jury spreadsheets of payments to doctors and how much the company profited from each bribe. In one instance, the company paid nearly $260,000 to two New York doctors who wrote more than $6m worth of Subsys prescriptions in 2014. Insys employees also posed as doctors to give insurance companies invented diagnoses to get approval for payments for the drug.

The jury was also shown a promotional rap video of Insys sales reps dancing next to a large bottle of Subsys including the line, “I got new patients, and I got a lot of ’em.”

Sales of Subsys surged as a result of the company’s aggressive marketing, rising from $14m in 2012 when the drug came on the market to nearly half a billion dollars five years later. Fentanyl is a powerful and highly addictive drug that has killed more people than any other opioid over recent years, although most of those who overdose do so on illegal versions of the drug smuggled into the country.

Prosecutors said the kickback scheme was one factor in the opioid epidemic as doctors “saw a huge payday that potentially put people’s lives in danger”. They showed the jury emails in which a former Insys CEO said certain doctors were “owned” by the company because of the amount of Subsys they prescribed.

Prosecutors said the Insys executives risked the lives of patients out of greed.

“These patients were used. Their pain was exploited,” US attorney Nathaniel Yeager told the jury. “The decisions, the money, the strategy came from the top.”

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.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/bi...ctors-to-prescribe-drug/ar-AAAOt8O?ocid=ientp
 

Joseph

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And the doctors ? .... are they not guilty of taking bribes ?

Classic Version of the Hippocratic Oath

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art - if they desire to learn it - without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.

I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfil this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

A Modern Version of the Hippocratic Oath

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

I will not be ashamed to say "I know not," nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.


The classical version of the Hippocratic Oath is from the translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.

The modern version of the Hippocratic Oath was written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University.
 
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skychief

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"Bribes" to sell high profit margin drugs is SOP for Bug Pharma, it's nothing new or specific to opiods.
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Yep.

Doctors have been doing this for years - prescribing name-brand pharmaceuticals and getting kick-backs from Big Pharm. My doctor told me!! hah hahhahaha
 

Goldhedge

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the_shootist

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Its not a conspiracy theory, as others mentioned it is the way business is done. I have a sibling who is a doctor is a non-prescribing health field (psychology) who has told me about the corruption among psychiatrists. They offer them free 'seminars' on their drugs, in garden spots like Florida, and then wine and dine them. Its ugly and its why I don't trust these azzholes.
 

arminius

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"Bribes" to sell high profit margin drugs is SOP for Big Pharma, it's nothing new or specific to opiods.
Bribing doctors to recomend newer much more expensive drugs is nothing new, and not specific to opiod pharm drugs in todays market...

Even old drugs that have long passed into generic territory (just another evil facet of modern pharm, that is pre generic humongous costs), are incredible expensive today. I bought some doxycycline recently, a drug decades long generic, it was 105 bucks, for a script that probably costs them less than five bucks.