Ex-pharmaceutical exec gets 5 1/2 years for pushing opioid

BOSTON (AP) — The founder of an Arizona pharmaceutical company was ordered to spend 5 1/2 years in prison Thursday for orchestrating a bribery and kickback scheme prosecutors said helped fuel the opioid crisis.

John Kapoor, 76, the former chairman of Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced in Boston’s federal court after a jury found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy last May. The 10-week trial revealed sensational details about the company’s marketing tactics, including testimony that a sales executive once gave a lap dance to a doctor the company was wooing.

Kapoor was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, the maximum under sentencing guidelines.

He and others were accused of paying millions of dollars in bribes to doctors across the United States to prescribe the company’s highly addictive oral fentanyl spray, known as Subsys. The bribes were paid in the form of fees for sham speaking engagements that were billed as educational opportunities for other doctors.

The company was also accused of misleading insurers to get payment approved for the drug, which is meant to treat cancer patients in severe pain and can cost as much as $19,000 a month.

Along with Kapoor, four others from Insys also were convicted last year and two pleaded guilty. All of them have been dealt prison sentences, ranging from a year and a day to nearly three years.

Prosecutors were requesting 15 years in prison for Kapoor, calling him the “lynch pin” of the operation.