After more than three weeks of deliberation, a Boston jury convicted John Kapoor, the wealthy founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc., and four other executives, of racketeering and bribery in order to boost sales of the company’s potent and highly addictive opioid fentanyl from 2012 to 2015, Law360 reported. This is the first successful prosecution of upper-level pharmaceutical company executives accused of fueling the opioid epidemic through illicit marketing and prescribing, said Andrew E. Lelling, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Kapoor and executives Michael Gurry, Joseph Rowan, Rich Simon, and Sunrise Lee allegedly contrived the speaker program to pay kickbacks to and buy gifts for doctors so that they would prescribe the company’s $19,000-a-month fentanyl spray Subsys in greater quantities and higher doses. They also misled insurance companies to cover the cost of the drug.
“Just as we would street-level drug dealers, we will hold pharmaceutical executives responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic by recklessly and illegally distributing these drugs, especially while conspiring to commit racketeering along the way,” Lelling said.
The government brought 39 witnesses to prove its case, far more than the defense. Kapoor’s attorneys tried to diffuse the damage by highlighting Kapoor’s desire to develop the medication after seeing his now-deceased wife suffer from intense pain. They also claimed that the company’s founder was not aware that employees were cooking up elaborate schemes to push the drugs and blamed the illicit actions on former employees, including former VP of sales, Alec Burlakoff, who previously pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for lighter sentences.
In 2018, Insys Therapeutics agreed to pay $150 million to settle charge brought by the U.S. Department of Justice over inappropriate opioid sales by former company employees.