Five senior execs at Insys Therapeutics (manufacturer of Subsys, a type of fentanyl), have been convicted of criminal racketeering and fraud charges stemming from the company's practice of bribing doctors to overprescribe their incredibly addictive and dangerous product, and for defrauding Medicare in the process.
John Kapoor, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee, Joseph Rowan and Michael Gurry were convicted by a jury that deliberated for 15 days. Kapoor founded Insys, and his participation in the racket made him a billionaire. All defendants are out of bail and could face 20 years in prison. Their lawyers say they will appeal.
The conviction was secured with the help of Insys's former President and CEO Michael Babich and former VP sales Alec Burlakoff who pleaded guilty and provided evidence against their former colleagues.
The federal charges are just for starters. Dozens of states across the US are preparing to prosecute opioid vendors, including the notorious Purdue Pharma, manufacturers of the killer drug Oxycontin. Purdue has already settled in Oklahoma, paying $270m, while Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan are headed to trial.
New York State is seeking to recover the funds that Purdue funneled to the Sackler family, who were made billionaires through the company's Oxy sales, and the state claims that the Sacklers have hidden their money offshore while quietly starting a new opioid company, Rhodes, which is continuing the practices pioneered by Purdue.
"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 after Thursday's ruling.
Lelling hailed the verdict as a "landmark prosecution" and vindication against executives he said put greed ahead of the American public. "These executives exploited vulnerable patients and cashed in on dishonest doctors by bribing them to prescribe one of the most powerful, addictive opioid painkillers to patients who should never have received it," said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston division.
Opioid company executives found guilty of racketeering [Wayne Drash/CNN]
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