The billionaire founder and majority owner of Insys Therapeutics Inc., has been arrested and charged with leading a nationwide conspiracy to bribe doctors and pharmacists to widely prescribe an opioid cancer pain drug for people who didn’t need it.
On the same day the president declared the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency, John N. Kapoor, along with six of his colleagues were charged with pushing prescriptions for Fentanyl.
Kapoor’s arrest comes amidst a national wave of lawsuits filed by state and local governments to hold corporations accountable for a national drug addiction epidemic. For over a decade drug makers have faced accusations that their marketing practices have been at the root of our opioid crisis. They have been blamed for fanning the flames of this crisis by encouraging greater and longer use of their painkillers and of attempting to cover up clinical evidence that their drugs were more addictive than they acknowledged.
Kapoor’s arrest exposes how easy it was for drug companies to manipulate the markets for highly addictive painkillers. He stands accused of bribing practitioners in various states, many of who operated pain clinics, in order to get them to prescribe a fentanyl-based pain medication. The medication, called “Subsys,” is a powerful narcotic intended to treat cancer patients suffering intense breakthrough pain. In exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the practitioners wrote large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer.
In the indictment it was also revealed that Kapoor and several former executives had organized a “reimbursement unit,” within the company to obtain prior authorization directly from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. They purposely mislead and defrauded insurers who were reluctant in approving payment for these addictive drugs when it was prescribed for non-cancer patients. Subsys is not cheap, a 30-day supply costs anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000and the job of the “reimbursement unit” was to trick insurers into believing the drug was “medically necessary.
According to Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb, “In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic that has reached crisis proportions, Mr. Kapoor and his company stand accused of bribing doctors to overprescribe a potent opioid and committing fraud on insurance companies solely for profit. Today’s arrest and charges reflect our ongoing efforts to attack the opioid crisis from all angles. We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable – just as we would the cartels or a street-level drug dealer.
For too long drug companies have been allowed to fuel the nations opioid crisis with impunity. When faced with patient lawsuits, they have prevailed by convincing judges that the problem was he patients – they were drug addicts. Meanwhile the companies got rich flooding the market with opioids.
No more. The time has come for drug makers to bear responsibility for the damages. Doctors wrote too many prescriptions and drug wholesalers drowned states in pills. The addiction and hardships faced by victims started with the marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies. The arrest of John Kapoor and executives at Insys suggest that accountability has finally arrived.