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5 Pharma Execs Guilty Of Bribing Doctors To Prescribe Opioids

BOSTON — A jury that had deliberated for 13 days found five former executives of Insys Pharmaceuticals guilty Thursday of bribing doctors to prescribe a powerful form of fentanyl to patients who did not need it. The trial in U.S. District Court in Boston is believed to be the first criminal trial of pharmaceutical executives since the national opioid epidemic began. Prosecutors had argued Insys founder John N. Kapoor and the other defendants paid doctors to prescribe Subsys, an under-the-tongue spray used to treat cancer-related pain, to patients without cancer.

In addition to Kapoor, the jury handed down guilty verdicts for Michael Gurry, Insys’s former vice president of managed markets; Richard Simon, former national sales director; and Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan, former regional sales directors. The defendants, according to prosecutors, paid millions of dollars to doctors in Kapoor’s desperate plot to see Subsys succeed after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012.

After the verdict was delivered, an attorney for Simons suggested his client would appeal. Judge Allison Dale Burroughs denied a prosecution request by the prosecution to place Kapoor under house arrest, given his wealth and ability to flee.

“Dr. Kapoor is disappointed in the verdict. Four weeks of jury deliberations confirm that this was far from an open-and-shut case, as did Judge Burroughs’ comments on our pending motion to acquit,” one of Kapoor’s attorneys said. “We will continue the fight to clear Dr. Kapoor’s name.”

All of the defendants had been charged under RICO with illegal distribution of a controlled substance, mail fraud, wire fraud and two counts of honest services mail fraud. In order to be convicted, each defendant must be found guilty of two predicate acts under the RICO statute. Gurry was found guilty of wire fraud and mail fraud; the other four defendants were found guilty of all five charges.

Each defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison after being found guilty of racketeering conspiracy. The lengthy trial included the showing of an Insys promotional video in which the company’s sales associates rapped about the product while wearing sunglasses and hooded sweatshirts while dancing next to a giant bottle of Subsys. At another point, Holly Brown, a former Insys sales representative, testified about taking a doctor to a Chicago strip club.

Dave Copeland can be reached at dave.copeland@patch.com or by calling 617-433-7851. Follow him on Twitter (@CopeWrites) and Facebook (/copewrites).

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