Ex-Billionaire Drug Exec is First to Get Prison Term in Opioid Cases

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John Kapoor

John Kapoor. Photo courtesy CBSNews

John Kapoor, a former billionaire who founded opioid maker Insys Therapeutics Inc., was sentenced to 5½ years in federal prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy to illegally boost sales of his firm’s prescription fentanyl drug, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The sentencing caps the fall of a former pharmaceutical industry high-flier, along with the company he founded and several fellow executives. Insys’s market value reached $3.2 billion in 2015 thanks to the sales from its fentanyl drug Subsys.

On Thursday, the company’s value was $3.87 million, a decline of 99.9 percent. Dr. Kapoor, 76, and four other former Insys executives and managers were convicted in Boston last May of conspiring to bribe doctors and defraud health insurers.

Two other Insys executives, ex-CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before the trial and testified against their former colleagues in cooperation agreements with the government.

The convictions marked the first successful prosecution of top pharmaceutical industry executives for illegally promoting prescription opioids, said the U.S. Attorney in Boston. Dr. Kapoor’s sentence by U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs is shorter than the 15 years sought by prosecutors. Burroughs said she was unsure whether Dr. Kapoor was, as prosecutors claimed, the lone central player behind the conspiracy.

At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, seven victims or their family members spoke about the harm they suffered from Subsys, from lost teeth to the death of a loved one to the drug. They urged the court to impose a harsh sentence. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling called the case a landmark that should serve as a deterrent to other pharmaceutical companies. He said he wanted to see stiffer penalties.

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