In December of 2016, the Palm Partners Recovery Center blog covered a story about how federal prosecutors were bringing racketeering charges against several employees of Insys Therapeutics Inc. The initial report and the controversy that followed was a profound moment considering criminal charges are rarely ever brought against pharmaceutical companies. Now it seems that even more the corporate drug dealers who helped create the opioid crisis in America are going to be finding themselves under serious scrutiny for their unethical practices.
Last week President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. That very same day, as if to accent the severity of the crisis and the unignorable need for change, the co-founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc. himself was arrested on fraud and racketeering charges.
Insys Therapeutics CEO Taking a Fall
John Kapoor is the former CEO of Insys Therapeutics; a founding father of one of the most prominent opioid manufacturing companies in America. As of last week, Kapoor is reported to be charged with conspiring to push the company’s signature drug for unacceptable uses through a series of bribes and kickbacks.
The drug Kapoor and his company are accused of pushing just happens to be one of the most dangerous opioids on the market, which has contributed to countless deaths across the country over the years- fentanyl.
The brand name for the product made by Insys Therapeutics Inc is Subsys. This extremely potent compound transmits the synthetic opioid fentanyl in spray form. As an opioid analgesic, people use Subsys by spraying it under the tongue for quick absorption of potent fentanyl. Technically, this drug is supposed to only be used for treating cancer patients suffering from severe pain. But according to prosecutors that is very far from the sales strategy Kapoor and his executives were using.
With recent reports showing that approximately 64,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose, and an estimated 20,100 overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, how many of those lives were impacted by the drug Insys forced onto the market with bribes?
According to the prosecution, Kapoor and several other former high-ranking executives at the company colluded to bribe doctors to write-
“- large numbers of prescriptions for the patients, most of whom were not diagnosed with cancer.”
They also allegedly-
“- conspired to mislead and defraud health insurance providers who were reluctant to approve payment for the drug when it was prescribed for non-cancer patients.”
How did they do all this?
The Insidious Work of Insys Therapeutics Inc
Back in 2016, there was the discussion of six former executives and sales-managers from Insys Therapeutics Inc. being arrested. The charges, according to the Justice Department, included:
- Conspiring to defraud health insurers
- Conspiring to bribe doctors into needlessly prescribing Subsys, the company’s fentanyl painkiller
The scam is allegedly a long list of kickback schemes, sham speaking programs, and illegitimate gifts or services.
Allegedly, doctors and nurses were paid to attend dinners at high-end restaurants. These dinners were disguised as ‘speaker programs’ that were actually described as gatherings of friends and co-workers who had no power to prescribe medications. Supposed ‘speakers’ were paid fees of up to several thousand dollars for attending these exclusive outings.
One healthcare provider reportedly received an illegal kickback to the tune of $83,000!
All of this money to bribe doctors and other healthcare professionals to prescribe Subsys, even when inappropriate. So not only were they pressuring doctors to use their product over alternatives, but also to prescribe a dangerous and potentially fatal opioid to people who didn’t even need it.
Other stories written about in Forbes include cases in:
In 2015 a nurse practitioner pleaded guilty to violating a federal anti-kickback statute by taking money from Insys to prescribe the drug to Medicare patients who did not have cancer.
A former Insys sales representative also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback statute by paying two doctors to prescribe the drug.
The state has filed multiple claims against Insys Therapeutics involving the pressuring prescriptions of Subsys for unapproved uses.
Doctors who have worked with the company are being investigated by states including:
U.S. attorneys in the Central District of California and the District of Massachusetts are also investigating Insys Therapeutics Inc.
Shady Gifts and Services
The buck doesn’t stop there either. It wasn’t just cash gifts for unethical practices. Insys Therapeutics wanted their partners in crime to get the full effect of their illicit activities.
The company would send its own employees to work in doctor’s offices when the physician prescribed their fentanyl fuming drug to patients. They even hired the relatives of health care providers as a favor to the family for their loyalty to Subsys.
They allegedly even set up a portion of their staff to defraud insurance companies by calling to speak with insurance representatives while posing as doctors. Some allegations state they were even misrepresenting a patients diagnosis to inflate drug sales.
A December of 2016 indictment states that Insys actively worked to defraud insurance companies by setting up the “reimbursement unit” dedicated to obtaining prior authorization from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
Other Insys Therapeutics Exes
Kapoor stepped down as chief executive in January. However, he is definitely not the only former Insys Therapeutics executive currently under fire. This is just the tip of a very rocky ice-berg. The indictment from 2016 included:
Michael L. Babich
Former CEO and President of the company from Scottsdale, Arizona
Former Vice President of Sales from Charlotte, North Carolina
Richard M. Simon
Former National Director of Sales from Seal Beach, California
Former Regional Sales Director from Bryant City, Michigan
Joseph A. Rowan
Former Regional Sales Director from Panama City, Florida
Michael J. Gurry
Former Vice President of Managed Markets from Scottsdale, Arizona
On January 5, 2017, all of these defendants appeared in federal court for their initial appearance and arraignment. Each has pled not guilty and been released on conditions approved by the court. A Status Conference hearing followed on September 12, 2017 that is the first of many to be held over several months. That day Massachusetts federal judge set a trial date for October 15, 2018, for the 6 executives.
For now, we have to wait and see if any of the dirty laundries from these alleged white-collar criminals come out in the wash.
Holding Big Pharma Accountable
For a long time, Big Pharma companies have been using unlawful and corrupt tactics for marketing and distribution, which many now see has brought with it some great devastation to communities across the nation. Now, during an opioid crisis that has claimed tens of thousands of lives a year, for several years, these discretions are finally catching up to those accused of corporate greed. The DEA, FBI and Justice Department, along with several state officials and district attorneys, are now aggressively pursuing charges against Big Pharma operators who have a connection to some of the most dangerous and widely abused narcotics on the market.
The acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb said in a statement,
“In the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic that has reached crisis proportions, 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,”
Kapoor was arrested in Arizona and his indictment was filed in federal court in Boston. Prosecutors say the charge of conspiracy to violate the anti-kickback law carries the possibility of up to five years in prison. However, the charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud each carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Needless to say, Mr. Kapoor is in for a fight.
But many are still wondering if these executives will truly be held accountable? And truthfully, is it even enough at this point? Even if proven to be indirectly contributing to the opioid epidemic, how could anyone ever know how many lives were damaged or lost because the powerful played around with lethal prescription drugs to line their pockets?
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With recent reports showing that approximately 64,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose, and an estimated 20,100 overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, how many of those lives were impacted by drugs like Subsys being forced onto the market with bribes?
More needs to be done to stop Big Pharma companies like Insys Therapeutics Inc from exploiting the system and putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk. And not just the middle-men should be accountable, but also those sitting comfortably at the top these industries. At least this is a start. But for the individual, it all starts with taking action. Getting safe and effective treatment can not just save a life, but help someone build a foundation for a better one. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Anyone can see that these are divisive times.
Every day we see another story about protestors, protests against protestors, and counter-protests against those protesting the free-speech of protestors. Various movements drive outrage, and some of the loudest voices today are the most controversial. But are we addicted to it?
Today, the University of Florida in Gainesville is bracing for the impact of another contentious event. Known white supremacist Richard Spencer has been scheduled to arrive today on campus to deliver a speech, promoting his openly racist and radically white nationalist ideals. A guy who seems to have a knack for intentionally stirring up racial tension in public, preaching about ‘peaceful ethnic cleansing’, and waving around tiki torches like nobodies business.
With so many other troubling things happening in America; the ongoing opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands every year; the debate on gun control following the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas; the concern over environmental deterioration or the devastation caused by recent Hurricanes to states like Texas and the island of Puerto Rico, doesn’t it seem we already have plenty to argue about?
How do voices like Richard Spencer spark our addiction to the controversy?
White Supremacist Invade Florida
The event is scheduled for this afternoon and will be the first college visit Richard Spencer has made since he and others participated in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The same day where the horrific display of people marching down the streets of an American city with Nazi flags and Ku Klux Klan symbols, many of them armed, clashed with counter-protestors. The same day a young woman was killed when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protestors.
Richard Spencer stood on the side with neo-nazis and klansmen.
Today officials at the University of Florida are worried that this event will also become violent. In fact, the president of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, believes Richard Spencer wants there to be violence, hoping it will garner sympathy for the ‘alt-right’ movement he represents. In an interview Fuchs states,
“They’re coming to campus with the intentions of confrontation and with the intention of having all of us repeat their view on the world.”
On Monday Rick Scott, Florida Governor, declared a state of emergency for Alachua County to enable law enforcement to work together more effectively at preventing violence. There has also been the talk of activating the National Guard if necessary.
Of course, Richard Spencer took all this extra precaution as an opportunity to pat himself on the back. He’s alleged to be absolutely flattered by the state of emergency on his behalf.
Hint of Hypocrisy
One thing that always comes to these kinds of conversations is the discussion of people’s first amendment rights. When we get to the topic of whether universities should permit speakers to come to their campus, people always argue that the individual’s freedom of speech should be a priority and that these institutions should allow people who are controversial and divisive to speak, regardless of the harm or outrage caused by their poisonous rhetoric.
In this writer’s personal opinion– (and I know this may sound weird)- I agree with letting people I disagree with have a chance to talk. If we give those we think are wrong a chance to speak, we can engage the conversation and challenge them. If we completely silence all ignorance I think we can’t comprehensively address it.
THAT BEING SAID…
The problem I take with situations like this is hearing that the University of Florida is spending over $600,000 on additional security for this event in order to protect white supremacists. Money coming from taxpayers that could be spent on providing tuitions for who knows how many students.
Of course, this is because UF is a public university, and is therefore prohibited from stopping the event based on the contents or views of the speech. The university provided a permit for Spencer to speak, but the event is unaffiliated with the school, and no student groups sponsored the speech or invited Spencer. Plain and simple, it is an absolute set-up for a huge fall-out. And the university is not permitted to defer the costs of protecting Spencer to him or his alt-right movement.
But I digress…
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy I see here is that the organizers for Spencer’s speech supposedly will only allow people who look like alt-right supporters to be among the 700 people inside the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. I can only guess what they look like.
So in essence, Spencer’s right to preach hate on a college campus should be a priority (sarcasm implied), even if the vast majority of students disagree with his oratory… But no one who disagrees with him should be allowed to participate in the dialog?
Our Addiction to Controversy and Outrage
Of course, just participating in this conversation is part of feeding the controversy. Therefore, this article in and of itself is putting the focus on the divisive subjects that push people into radical ideologies and pull communities apart. But the conversation still needs to be had; why are we so addicted to this kind of conflict?
Did you know our neurobiology rewards our outrage? A simple reason we are addicted to the controversy is that our outrage does feel good.
Our anger overrides all other moral and rational constraints in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system. This is the part of the brain where our most automatic emotions like fear and desire come from.
The limbic system has the most direct links to our fight-or-flight response system. It controls our adrenaline rushes, alertness, and other instincts. Controversy and outrage tap into those instincts and we can become addicted to the rush we experience through the limbic system.
The ego is a primary fuel source for our outrage and our attraction to controversy. Not only do we get a thrill from the debate and a rush from feeling right in a debate, but it is a way we overcome our own feelings.
Anger can be triggered by feelings of insecurity or weakness. Our outrage is a surge of emotion that flows in to overcome those feelings of fragility. So our outrage and immersion into controversy make us feel stronger or superior.
Feeding Our Addiction
Addiction compels you to chase a high that only makes you feel worse; it reduces you to a lesser version of yourself. It seems, however, that Americans are largely addicted to controversy and discord. When you look on social media or watch television it appears evident we are adopting a society that is hooked on hostility and that undervalues empathy.
How did this happen? Simple; More than most drug addicts, our dealers are literally everywhere! The business of controversy is an ugly but lucrative one. Any drug trafficker knows how that is. Many people who dig up every piece of offensive, frightening or infuriating news to publish don’t typically let it bother them in the same way. Especially online in forums, most posters are thrilled to pedal it because they know their addicted customers all too well.
The drama-dealers know they’re making us feel a thrill of uncertainty or weakness, while simultaneously making us feel stronger and better-than.
True Strength is in Unity
The truth is, being ‘right’ or debating better than others doesn’t make any of us stronger. Our true strength comes not from our addiction to being smarter or superior in any way. ‘Alt-right’ is not the future, it is a reprehensible and sectarian atrocity that should not be given even a finite measure of merit. But people will thrive off of the discourse it will create.
Contrary to the garbage Richard Spencer will spew about diversity being an evil and an unnatural threat to the supremacy of the white race, diversity, and unity despite our differences is what gives us true strength. It almost seems ridiculous that as adults we still have to keep arguing this point. Our nation has a very sordid past, but we are better for admitting it and trying to do better.
People like Richard Spencer, feed on the fear, weakness, insecurity and false strength created by their archaic and disgraceful controversy. This is not strength, it is pure exploitation of their own people in a callous attempt at prestige. Spencer is another dealer, committed to trafficking in racism, fascism, and discontent. Like any other heroin or crack dealer.
Student leaders from the University of Florida have been planning events using #TogetherUF to promote education and dialog while encouraging unity and embracing diversity. Hopefully, these collective efforts to pull people together can counter-balance the separation Spencer and his followers hope to create.
It is with great hope that the campus and its students remain safe, as thousands have already committed to marching in protest of Spencer and his movement.
“Our true nationality is mankind.”
Palm Healthcare Company believes everyone from every culture or community deserves a chance to be happy and healthy. We embrace the unity of our staff, our clients and our community towards building better futures for all of us. We know addiction does not discriminate, and we are here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Back in August, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis began urging President Trump to declare a national public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis that has crippled countless communities around America. While the President did soon enough say that he believed the opioid epidemic was indeed a national emergency, the actual official process has yet to begin. However, just this week news broke that President Trump will soon formally declare the “national emergency” status of the opioid crisis.
Reports indicate President Trump plans to make the official declaration next week. It seems appropriate following the explosive exposé following the story on ’60 Minutes’ of former DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi pointing a finger at Big Pharma companies, Congress, and lobbyists for fueling the opioid epidemic.
In fact, Republican Representative Tom Marino, who was the top pick for the Trump administrations Drug Czar, was name-dropped in a less than flattering light in the ’60 Minutes’ piece. Reports today now show Marino has withdrawn from consideration following the story.
So what does this newest revelation mean for combatting the opioid crisis?
One of the initial reasons for declaring a national emergency is pretty straight-forward; raising awareness. Not that we don’t see enough shocking news stories or warnings from local officials being issued in various states, but more attention on the issue will help channel more resources into actually helping address it.
As the commission states in their report:
“It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will,”
“You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency, and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately.”
When the President of the United States says something is a priority, people take notice. Regardless of whether people always agree on politics, when we can all get behind a major issue and put effort into a more inclusive conversation, there is a better chance more can be done.
Overcoming Addiction Stigma
One of the most important aspects of fighting addiction is overcoming the addiction stigma itself. Many people who are suffering do not get the help they need because they are afraid of the stereotypes associated with drug abuse. A lot of people still doubt what the majority of the medical and scientific communities have adopted as fact; that addiction is a health issue, not a moral failing.
By declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency, President Trump has an opportunity to promote education along with public awareness. The more we can help people to understand how addiction affects the mind and body, the better odds we have of supporting those struggling with compassionate and effective treatment options.
Funding for Fighting Opioids
Perhaps one of the biggest hopes for many addiction recovery advocates is that by President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency he will influence lawmakers to allocate more funding to resources combatting addiction.
A federal declaration would also allow the government to pull funding from other areas as well, such as funding used for the Public Health Emergency Fund, or even the federal Disaster Relief Fund. So while America has been struck pretty hard by hurricanes and natural disasters, some of this same funding may end up going toward creating addiction resources.
One thing many are hoping is that these new funds will also go to promoting more addiction treatment options across the country. Some states may pursue incentives for performance-based enhanced care management (ECM) program, like one recently implemented in New Jersey. Others may put those resources into prevention and education initiatives.
One thing should seem pretty clear; treatment options should be a priority. We already know we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. The War on Drugs did not work, and many do not expect it will now either. With President Trump declaring the national emergency, hopefully, the new effort will go into protecting mental health and substance abuse parity with healthcare and insurance providers. If we have more ways to help those already desperately in need, we could see a better chance for a way out.
With the CDC stating an estimated 91 Americans dying every single day from opioid-related death, which many experts believe is grossly underreported, helping more people fighting opioid addiction find a way out is crucial. However, we should not wait on politicians, health officials or anyone else to fix it. Recovery takes action. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398