Insys Therapeutics Admits to Bribing Doctors to Write Opioid Prescriptions

October 01, 2019

Imagine for a second that you knew a product you were manufacturing was killing people in droves. Now think about being the type of company who would bribe a doctor to prescribe that product to their patients.

It’s inconceivable. It’s reprehensible. It’s exactly what Insys Therapeutics was doing.

On the heels of a thorough criminal and civil investigation by the federal government, NPR reports that the opioid manufacturer has agreed to pay $225 million to settle its involvement in the matter. The crux of the investigation centered on Insys’ marketing practices, which proved to be the proverbial smoking gun in the case. As a condition of its settlement terms, the company admitted to bribing physicians to dole out prescriptions of its opioid painkiller.

Today’s healthcare climate already breeds accusations about doctors not caring as much as they should about a patient’s long-term health. In fact, an OptimizeRX survey found that about 75% of doctors lack the tracking measures needed to confirm if a patient actually fills a prescription.

But the relationship Insys and these doctors had in place goes beyond just negligence. It’s flat-out criminal. A federal jury in Boston last month found five Insys executives accused of similar practices guilty of racketeering conspiracy.

In the latest settlement, the company admitted to a ruse they coordinated across the country in which a phony “speaker program” paid participating doctors. But these doctors weren’t giving presentations, sitting on panels, or lecturing about elaborate case findings. They were writing prescriptions for Subsys, the fentanyl-based medication manufactured by Insys. And in many cases, the patients receiving the prescription had no medicinal need for the drug at all.

Earlier this year, we brought you details from a study announced in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open and reported by CNN, that directly correlated the promotion of opioids and fatal opioid-related overdoses.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments database showed 435,000 payments made to more than 60,000 nationwide physicians over the period studied. The total for those payments made from August 2013 through December 2015? A whopping $39 million.

Fortunately, it looks like the government’s intervention is going to halt any illegal glad-handing by Insys. Per the settlement, Insys agreed to close monitoring by the federal government for a term of five years and is subject to further charges for any additional violations.

"For years, Insys engaged in prolonged, illegal conduct that prioritized its profits over the health of the thousands of patients who relied on it," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in a statement. "Today, the company is being held responsible."

John Kapoor, the company’s founder, has been one of the biggest names implicated in the controversy surrounding the opioid epidemic. Kapoor’s sentencing will take place later this year in September.

An Insys spokesman said that mounting legal costs from the investigation and settlement have left the company facing financial problems that could result in it having to cease operations.

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