On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—the drug that killed Prince—rose by nearly 75 percent in 2015. On the same day, federal prosecutors in Massachusetts announced the arrest of six former employees, including a former CEO and two former vice presidents, of the Phoenix-based and NASDAQ-traded fentanyl producer Insys Therapeutics. The individuals are charged with bribing doctors and otherwise conspiring to induce the over prescription of a fentanyl product called Subsys.
The indictment details a variety of brazenly dishonest methods by which doctors and insurance companies were allegedly convinced to issue and fund prescriptions of Subsys:
- Insys paid doctors to give educational lectures about the use of Subsys. That’s ostensibly legal, except that prosecutors allege that the company paid said doctors in direct proportion to the frequency with which they wrote Subsys prescriptions, with one Insys employee allegedly texting another that the doctors hired to give lectures “do not need to be good speakers” so long as they were high-volume Susbys prescribers. These “lectures,” meanwhile were allegedly often nothing more than dinners at high-end restaurants attended only by the doctors getting paid, the Subsys employees paying them, and the doctor’s friends. One Florida doctor is alleged to have made $275,000 in speaking fee bribes in three years.