from the save-the-last-[lap]-dance-for-me?? dept.
A former regional sales director for Insys Therapeutics allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor as the company was pushing him to prescribe its deadly opioid painkiller to patients. That's according to multiple reports of testimony given Tuesday from a former Insys colleague in a federal court in Boston.
The testimony is part of a federal racketeering trial getting underway this week against Insys founder John Kapoor and four former executives, including the sales director, Sunrise Lee. Federal prosecutors allege that the Insys executives used bribes and kickbacks to get doctors to prescribe the company's powerful and addictive fentanyl spray, called Subsys—which was intended only for cancer patients experiencing pain that's not alleviated by other medications (aka "breakthrough pain"). The former executives are also accused of misleading and defrauding health insurance companies that ended up covering the drug for patients who did not need it. A congressional investigation in 2017 concluded that Insys sales representatives bluntly lied and tricked insurers to do that—and the investigators released the tapes to prove it.
"The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place. If they don't start, they won't have a problem." – President Donald J. Trump
President Trump has declared the "Opioid Crisis" a nationwide public health emergency. This action will allow for "expanded access to telemedicine services" to remotely prescribe medicines for substance abuse, allow the Department of Health and Human Services to "more quickly make temporary appointments of specialists with the tools and talent needed to respond effectively to our Nation's ongoing public health emergency", allow the Department of Labor to issue dislocated worker grants for those "displaced from the workforce" due to the Opioid Crisis, and will help people with HIV/AIDS to receive substance abuse treatment. The press release lists several actions that the Trump Administration has taken to respond to the Opioid Crisis, including the July 2017 law enforcement action against AlphaBay.
The declaration has been criticized for not requesting any funds to respond to the Crisis. The "nationwide public health emergency" declaration is also distinct from a promised "national emergency declaration", which would have freed up money from the Disaster Relief Fund to be spent on the Crisis. 14 Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would authorize $45 billion to address the Opioid Crisis. The Obama Administration called on Congress last year to pass just over $1 billion in funding for opioid treatment programs nationwide. This funding was included in the 21st Century Cures Act.
The Department of Justice has arrested and charged the founder and majority owner of Insys Therapeutics Inc., John Kapoor, along with other executives from his company. Kapoor is accused with leading a nationwide conspiracy to bribe doctors and illegally distribute the company's fentanyl spray, intended for cancer patients, so that it could be prescribed for non-cancer patients. Kapoor stepped down as CEO of Insys in January. Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb said, "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." Six former Insys executives and managers were charged in December.
The CNN/Harvard analysis looked at 2014 and 2015, during which time more than 811,000 doctors wrote prescriptions to Medicare patients. Of those, nearly half wrote at least one prescription for opioids.
Fifty-four percent of those doctors -- more than 200,000 physicians -- received a payment from pharmaceutical companies that make opioids.
Among doctors in the top 25th percentile of opioid prescribers by volume, 72% received payments. Among those in the top fifth percentile, 84% received payments. Among the very biggest prescribers -- those in the top 10th of 1% -- 95% received payments.
On average, doctors whose opioid prescription volume ranked among the top 5% nationally received twice as much money from the opioid manufacturers, compared with doctors whose prescription volume was in the median. Doctors in the top 1% of opioid prescribers received on average four times as much money as the typical doctor. Doctors in the top 10th of 1%, on average, received nine times more money than the typical doctor. [...]
Some studies have looked at whether the amount of money a doctor receives makes a difference. Studies by researchers at Yale University, the George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health and Harvard Medical School have all found that the more money physicians are paid by pharmaceutical companies, the more likely they are to prescribe certain drugs.
Angela Cantone says she wishes she had known that opioid manufacturers were paying her doctor hundreds of thousands of dollars; it might have prompted her to question his judgment.