Founder of opioid manufacturer arrested for bribing doctors

Nov 08 2017

Founder of opioid manufacturer arrested for bribing doctors

The same week that President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, authorities also arrested a billionaire who may have fueled the epidemic.

Last week authorities charged John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics, with defrauding insurance companies and bribing doctors to prescribe more fentanyl-based painkillers.

Along with Kapoor, six other Insys executives were also charged with what authorities say amounted to a racketeering ring.

The charges revolve around a medication called Subsys, a powerful fentanyl-based narcotic “intended to treat cancer patients suffering intense breakthrough pain.” The charges allege Kapoor and others bribed doctors to prescribe the drug unnecessarily, and persuaded insurers to cover the cost of the drug even when it was prescribed for unapproved reasons.

According to the indictment, “In exchange for bribes and kickbacks, the practitioners wrote large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer.” The fact that many of these patients didn’t even have cancer means doctors weren’t only over-prescribing, they were being reckless as well.

Kapoor is a member of Insys’ board, and is still listed as the chairman of the board for Akorn Pharmaceuticals. While Akorn is not involved in the indictment, it just goes to show how interconnected drugmakers can be.

Going after pharmaceutical executives is the latest tool for law enforcement officials hoping to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic. Some state attorneys general have already started to make a habit of charging pharmaceutical companies for dangerous or misleading practices. And it makes sense, because if the war on drugs has taught us anything, it’s that you have to go after the suppliers.

Over-prescribing practices contributed to the rise in opioid addiction and overdose deaths, and if the charges against Kapoor end up being true, it’s executives like him who are responsible. The relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical companies also needs to be reexamined as a whole, but it’s important for the public to realize that these types of shady practices exist.

Treatment providers are already doing all they can. And despite their best outreach and community education efforts, they are primarily fighting retroactively, once the addiction has already developed. If their efforts are falling short in curbing the overall crisis (and by most accounts they are), then the solution has to be found elsewhere. We can start by going to the source and proactively stemming the flow of dangerous drugs. Perhaps then we can finally start to see some real change.