A federal jury in Boston has found Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor, as well as four former Insys managers, guilty of racketeering conspiracy. Former vice president Michael Gurry, ex-national sales director Richard Simon, former regional sales director Joseph Rowan, and one-time stripper turned Insys sales manager Sunrise Lee were also found guilty.
They were accused of bribing doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants, Sunrise Lee, allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. The charges call for up to 20 years in prison, but as first-time offenders, Kapoor and the others would likely get only a fraction of that.
The trial against former billionaire Kapoor and four other company executives began in January and lasted into April. Insys managers Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee were also convicted. The executives were accused of conspiring to bribe clinicians to prescribe the company’s potent fentanyl spray medication off-label. Former CEO Michael Babich and former vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff, pleaded guilty before this year’s trial began.
Michael Babich testified against his former colleagues during the trial and told jurors that Insys recruited sales representatives who were “easy on the eyes” because they knew physicians didn’t want an “unattractive person to walk in their door.”
Prosecutors allege that to boost sales for Subsys, which is meant for cancer patients with severe pain-bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking events that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors. Prosecutors said Insys staffers also misled insurers about patients’ medical conditions and posed as doctors’ office employees in order to get payment approved for the costly drug.
Kapoor is the first chief executive officer of an opioid maker to be convicted at a trial. The verdict signals that the public is willing to hold pharmaceutical executives accountable for the U.S. crisis and comes as thousands of state and local governments press civil lawsuits against drug-makers to recover billions of dollars spent combating the epidemic.
The guilty verdict comes as companies including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson and Endo International Plc are preparing to face trials over allegations by states and local governments that their sales campaigns fueled a crisis which is costing billions of dollars annually and claims more than 100 lives daily in the United States. The Sackler family, Purdue’s billionaire owners, are facing a new wave of lawsuits over its role in the marketing of OxyContin. They, like the companies, deny wrongdoing.