Speed Reads

opioid crisis

Owner of Insys Therapeutics charged with bribing doctors to prescribe powerful opioid spray

Dr. John N. Kapoor, the billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics, was arrested and charged Thursday with bribing doctors to prescribe Subsys, a spray meant for cancer patients that contains the highly addictive synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Kapoor, 74, was arrested in Phoenix, and is facing federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy to violate an anti-kickback law; the racketeering and fraud charges alone carry possible prison sentences of up to 20 years. Subsys was approved by the FDA to treat cancer patients who have pain that can't be helped by any other narcotics, and a 30-day supply costs between $3,000 and $30,000, NBC News reports; in the last year, Insys has sold $240 million worth of Subsys. Prosecutors allege Insys paid doctors hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for them prescribing Subsys, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.

Three of the top prescribers have been convicted of accepting bribes from Insys, and Insys denies any wrongdoing, saying the company cannot be held responsible for how doctors prescribe products. Over the summer, former employee and whistleblower Patty Nixon told NBC News she was trained to make sure doctors prescribed Subsys, even to patients who did not have cancer. She contacted insurance companies on behalf of the patients and doctors, she said, sometimes pretending to work for a doctor who treated cancer patients to make it easier for her requests to go through.