Pharma Executive John Kapoor Sentenced to Over Five Years in Prison in Opioid Trial

January 24, 2020 Updated: January 24, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

The former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company, was sentenced to 66 months in prison after he was found guilty of bribing doctors to prescribe an opioid.

John Kapoor, 76, who founded Insys, is the highest-ranking pharmaceutical executive to get sentenced in a case related to the opioid crisis, which has decimated communities across America.

U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs also gave Kapoor three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay forfeiture and restitution to be determined at a later date.

The 66-month sentence came after prosecutors recommended Kapoor be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Kapoor learned that he could profit from developing a spray form of a generic drug and marketing it as a premium product. He privately funded Insys as it developed Subsys, a fentanyl-based spray that was eventually approved to treat cancer patients.

“With such significant personal financial investment, Kapoor was committed to ensuring that Insys was successful, and he did so by exercising tight control on all aspects of corporate decision making,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts said.

“Kapoor hired, or authorized the hiring of, several top executives who became co-conspirators in the criminal scheme to bribe practitioners, many of whom operated pain clinics, to prescribe Subsys to patients, often when medically unnecessary.”

As part of the scheme, Kapoor launched programs featuring speakers talking about Subsys at lunches and dinners. The events served as a front for Kapoor and associates to bribe doctors to prescribe the spray.

Epoch Times Photo
In this Jan. 30, 2019, file photo, Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor leaves federal court in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

“Out of pure greed, Insys executives, from John Kapoor on down, bribed doctors to prescribe this powerful and highly addictive narcotic to people who did not need it,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

“Despite increasing public fears of a drug epidemic fueled by pain pill prescriptions, these defendants, led by Kapoor, plowed ahead, setting weekly quotas for doctors on their payroll, urging them to prescribe Subsys in higher and higher doses, all so they could make millions of dollars at patients’ expense. Their disregard for the public’s health and safety is nothing short of appalling.”

Kapoor’s conviction and sentencing was “a landmark prosecution that successfully held accountable a pharmaceutical company’s top executives for their roles in the illicit marketing and prescribing of opioids,” Lelling said.

Related Sentencing

Also this week, Michael Babich, the 43-year-old former CEO of Insys, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Babich pleaded guilty in January 2019 and cooperated with the government in the investigation. Babich testified as a witness in the trials of Kapoor and his co-defendants.

Another high-level Insys executive also assisted in the investigation: Alex Burlakoff, the former vice president of sales.

Along with Kapoor, four other executives were convicted of rackeeteering conspiracy: Richard Simon, the former national director of sales; Sunrise Lee, a former regional sales director; Joseph Rowan, a former regional sales director; and Michael Gurry, the former vice president of managed markets.

Simon was sentenced this week to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay approximately $2.3 million in forfeiture. Lee was sentenced this week to one year and one day in prison and three years of supervised release. Gurry was sentenced this week to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay approximately $3.6 million in forfeiture.

Rowan hasn’t been sentenced as of yet.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber