Almost two years after he was arrested and charged for running a criminal drug cartel, opioid kingpin John Kapoor of Insys Therapeutics has finally been convicted of running a nationwide bribery and racketeering conspiracy.
According to reports, the federal government has found the billionaire pharma executive, along with four of his co-defendants, guilty of illegally paying off doctors to prescribe opioid pharmaceuticals such as fentanyl, which directly contributed to the current opioid epidemic.
In declaring Kapoor guilty of this crime, federal prosecutors sent a clear message that drug companies will no longer be getting away with conspiring to illicitly distribute dangerous and highly addictive opioids that are harming and killing Americans.
“Today’s convictions mark the first successful prosecution of top pharmaceutical executives for crimes related to the illicit marketing and prescribing of opioids,” indicated United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling in a statement.
“Just as we would street-level drug dealers, we will hold pharmaceutical executives responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic by recklessly and illegally distributing these drugs, especially while conspiring to commit racketeering along the way.”
Because it’s rare for the federal government to pursue corporate executives like this using criminal charges, the case is said to set a new precedent for justice, particularly as it pertains to the activities of Big Pharma.
“This is a landmark decision that vindicated the public’s interest in staunching the flow of opioids into our homes and streets,” Lelling went on to say.
The Feds prosecuted Kapoor using the same tactics as they would the MAFIA
According to Brad Bailey, a criminal defense attorney from Boston and a former federal prosecutor who’s been following the case, the 10-week trial and the way it proceeded is incredibly rare.
“That’s always unusual. That’s always an attention grabber,” Bailey indicated about the decision by the Feds to go after Kapoor and his co-defendants with racketeering charges.
“The big issue is the use of racketeering charges, which had been originally designed to go after the Mafia,” he added, noting that the federal government has basically determined that what took place at Insys was organized crime.
And Insys certainly isn’t a lone target, as what was uncovered about the company during the trial mirrors what many other pharmaceutical companies are also doing to push the sale of opioids and many other drugs.
The court’s determination here was that Kapoor knowingly put the lives of patients at risk in order to increase his company’s bottom line, as well as his own personal bank account. According to the ruling, the scheme involved both bribing doctors and lying to insurance companies in order to extract maximum profits.
Insys under Kapoor reportedly targeted doctors “with a track record of liberally prescribing opioids,” and invited them “to participate in a ‘speakers program.’” Even if nobody showed up at these lectures, the doctors were paid “handsomely,” according to reports, just so long as they continued to prescribe as many opioids to their patients as possible.
Prosecutors say that many of these patients didn’t even need opioids, but that didn’t matter: As long as they were being prescribed, and Insys was making money, then nobody batted an eye.
Insys even went so far as to set up a call center where employees from the company pretended to work for doctors’ offices. These fake personas would make up diagnoses that they would then relay over the phone to insurance companies, ensuring that Insys was reimbursed for the cost of its prescribed opioids, which reports indicate “can cost tens of thousands of dollars a month.”
“We need to think much more deeply about how we regulate the pharmaceutical industry and how we prevent these kinds of practices from occurring in the first place,” contends Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University.