Ex-pharmaceutical boss jailed over opioids

The founder of a US pharmaceutical company has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for orchestrating a bribery and kickback scheme that prosecutors said helped fuel the opioid crisis.

John Kapoor, 76, the former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced in Boston’s federal court on Thursday after a jury found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy last May.

The 10-week trial revealed sensational details about the company’s marketing tactics, including testimony that a sales executive once gave a lap dance to a doctor the company was wooing. Kapoor was also ordered to pay a $US250,000 ($A365,325) fine.

Kapoor and others were accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to doctors to prescribe the company’s highly addictive oral fentanyl spray, known as Subsys. The bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking engagements that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.

Prosecutors also said the company misled insurers to get payment approved for the drug, which is meant to treat cancer patients in severe pain and can cost as much as $US19,000 a month.

Prosecutors said Kapoor personally approved bribes for doctors who abusively prescribed opioids and also approved financial incentives for sales reps to make sure doctors prescribed the highest doses of the drug.

“Put simply, Kapoor ran Insys without a moral compass, without any concern that his strategies would harm people,” they wrote.

During the trial, jurors heard from former employees who said Insys made a habit of hiring attractive women as representatives to boost sales of the drug. One former employee testified that a regional sales manager once gave a lap dance at a Chicago nightclub to a doctor whom Insys was pushing to write more prescriptions.

The case was considered the first that sought to hold an opioid maker criminally liable for the drug crisis, which has claimed nearly 400,000 US lives over the last two decades. At least two others have since faced criminal charges, but prominent companies including Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, have only faced suits that carry no threat of prison time.

AAP

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