Pharma Billionaire Allegedly Paid Doctors to Push Fentanyl

Insys founder faces charges including bribery, racketeering
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2017 6:59 AM CDT
Pharma Billionaire Allegedly Paid Doctors to Push Fentanyl
Billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics John Kapoor leaves US District Court on Thursday in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Sarah Fuller died a little more than a year after she was prescribed a fentanyl spray for her chronic neck and back pain, but her mom doesn't just blame the opioid. She points the finger at "a drug company who couldn't care less about a human life." She's referring to Insys Therapeutics, whose former CEO and billionaire founder, Dr. John Kapoor, stands accused of orchestrating a nationwide scheme in which doctors were allegedly bribed to prescribe Subsys, reports NBC News. The spray containing fentanyl, an opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is approved for cancer patients with pain unhelped by other narcotics. But Kapoor aimed to provide Subsys to as many people as possible, non-cancer patients included, a former Insys employee says.

Former employee Patty Nixon tells NBC News she was "trained" to trick insurers into thinking Subsys—which can cost as much as $30,000 monthly—was a "medically necessary" drug by using false diagnosis codes or sometimes by pretending she worked for a cancer doctor. But that was just one aspect: CBS News alleges Insys executives also bribed doctors to prescribe Subsys through 18,000 payments in 2016 totaling more than $2 million. Several Insys executives are accused, reports the Arizona Republic, but Insys—which does not face charges—denies responsibility. Kapoor, 74, meanwhile, was arrested in an early-morning raid in Arizona Thursday and charged with racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, and fraud. CBS describes him as "the most significant pharmaceutical executive to be criminally charged in response to the nationwide opioid crisis." (More pharmaceutical companies stories.)

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