Five New York City doctors allegedly took at least $800,000 from Insys Therapeutics Inc., to prescribe the spray version of fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid that has been known to cause overdose deaths across the country. According to a 75-page indictment that the Manhattan federal court released on Friday, all the defendants pleaded not-guilty to the charges, which included conspiracy to describe the efforts to overprescribe the medication.
The doctors had been “working” for the company’s ‘Speakers Bureau’ for four years starting back in 2012. However, their positions were a way to hide the fact that the “speech” part of the job description was a farce.
According to the New York Times, Insys paid more than $100,000 annually to at least two of the doctors. The indictment also says that Insys funneled the illegal payments to the doctors through a sham “speakers bureau.” As members of the bureau, doctors were paid for giving educational presentations. The events were sparsely-attended, and usually by doctors who were well-versed in the main topic: use of the prescription drug Fentanyl – and specifically, the spray version called Subsys which Insys conveniently holds a patent to manufacture. Some of the educational lessons were just meet-and-greets at high-end Manhattan restaurants. Another interesting tidbit: the more Subsys a doctor prescribed, the more frequently they were paid for their “speeches.”
The five doctors under indictment are as follows: Gordon Freedman, Jeffrey Goldstein, Todd Schlifstein, Dialectic Voudouris and Alexandru Burducea. Each of them has pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court to federal charges. They face criminal charges that include conspiracy and violation of anti-kickback laws. Each of them also faces up to at least 30 years in prison.
Jonathan Roper of Commack, the former sales manager at Insys, was charged in 2016 with violating anti-kickback laws for paying doctors to write prescriptions for Subsys. He has already pleaded guilty to those charges, and he was considered an unindicted co-conspirator with the doctors in the eyes of the court.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive drug, and the delivery method for Subsys gives users an “instant gratification” that is deadly when misused.