In the recent fraud and racketeering case against Chandler-based Insys Therapeutics Inc., its billionaire founder John Kapoor (74) has pleaded not guilty. Kapoor and other defendants are accused of bribing a significant number of doctors to prescribe fentanyl-based pain medication meant only for cancer patients with severe pain. As per the allegations, most of the patients who received the prescription did not have cancer. Kapoor along with other defendants are also accused of misleading and deceiving insurance providers disapproving payment for the drug when it was prescribed to non-cancer patients.
The investigations involved the company’s product Subsys, an under-the-tongue spray, containing fentanyl. The indictment made him the seventh defendant in the case that was filed in December 2016 against six former company executives and managers, including ex-Chief Executive Michael Babich. Kapoor was arrested on Oct.26, 2017 and is currently out on a $1 million bond. He doesn’t find the case strong enough and “wants to fight this case,” as reported by his lawyer. All other defendants are set to go for a trial in October 2018 and they too have pleaded not guilty.
A Schedule II drug, fentanyl is a synthetic drug that has triggered a phenomenal rise in overdose deaths in the United States. Commonly prescribed in a patch form, this potent opioid comes in many forms, including a spray, tablet, lozenge and film. Though an effective pain reliever, fentanyl is considered 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. Owing to its powerful pain-relieving and relaxation-inducing effects, the drug is often abused and sought for illicit purposes.
Kapoor stepped down as the company’s CEO and chairman in January 2017 but continues to be its major shareholder. Following the allegations, on Nov. 16, 2017, he pleaded not guilty to the charges levied against him. He entered his plea in the Boston federal court.
Following his arrest, the company announced that it would pay a minimum amount of $150 million to settle the probe.
In a statement issued earlier, the company representatives had said, “We have taken necessary and appropriate steps to prevent past mistakes from happening in the future, and are committed to conducting business according to high ethical standards and the interests of patients. We also continue to work with relevant authorities to resolve issues related to the misdeeds of former employees.”
According to the company’s website, it aims at improving the quality of patient care by focusing on drug delivery systems that address the unmet patient needs. As per a company’s spokesperson, the company is under new management and takes responsibility for the actions of his former employees.
Years of research and medical practice have established opioids as the most effective way to treat severe chronic pain or pain after surgery. But researchers also caution against their misuse and other health risks. Many a times, opioids like heroin are laced with fentanyl and sold to gullible users. It is time people of the nation are made aware about the ill effects of opioids and to expand the reach of health care services to those addicted.
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