Insys Racketeering Convictions Mark a First in Opioid Crisis

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In what was believed to be the first criminal trial of pharmaceutical executives who marketed an opioid painkiller since the nation’s deadly epidemic began, a federal jury in Boston convicted five former executives of the Arizona drug company Insys Therapeutics of racketeering conspiracy for bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive painkiller to patients who didn’t need it and tricking insurers into paying for it, the Boston Globe reports. Among those found guilty on the jury’s 15th day of deliberations was Insys founder John N. Kapoor.

Prosecutors said the five defendants ran Insys like mobsters, displaying “brazen audacity” in a nationwide scheme to pay off doctors at pain clinics to prescribe the under-the-tongue fentanyl spray Subsys. Most patients who were prescribed Subsys didn’t have cancer, according to the government, and some got addicted. As part of the conspiracy, prosecutors said, eight doctors and medical practitioners got more than $1.1 million disguised as “speaking fees.” Insys also set up a reimbursement center where employees allegedly lied to health insurers about patients’ symptoms to get them to cover Subsys for people without cancer. Defense lawyers said their clients were railroaded by the real culprits: former co-workers who cut plea deals with prosecutors and testified for the government. Kapoor’s lawyers vowed to “continue the fight to clear Dr. Kapoor’s name” by appealing the verdict, saying in a statement that it was “far from an open-and-shut case.”

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