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5 New York City Doctors Charged for Accepting Bribes to Sell Fentanyl Opioid

5 New York City Doctors Charged for Accepting Bribes to Sell Fentanyl Opioid
(Insys Therapeutics/YouTube, @WKmj30/Twitter)

Dr. Gordon Freedman of Manhattan's Upper East Side was indicted along with four other doctors for accepting a bribe from a pharmaceutical company to prescribe Subsys – a spray form of the highly addictive fentanyl opioid intended for use exclusively for those battling cancer.

Freedman was already a top-rated salesman and a paid promotional speaker, but he accepted an offer for more money from Insys Therapeutics – the manufacturer of Subsys – in exchange for increasing the number of fentanyl prescriptions to unwitting patients.

Freedman and four other doctors accepted the kickback and were paid more than $800,000 to prescribe Subsys. Now, all five doctors are being indicted for conspiracy and other charges that could land them up to 20 years in prison.

On Friday, doctors Gordon Freedman, Jeffrey Goldstein, Todd Schlifstein, Dialecti Voudouris and Alexandru Burducea pleaded not guilty in federal court and were each released on $200,000 bond.

The 75-page unsealed indictment detailed Insys paying the doctors roughly $100,000 annually to prescribe millions of dollars worth of fentanyl to new patients. In exchange, the doctors were paid to give educational lectures about the drug, when in fact, the gatherings were a ruse with many of them taking place at fancy restaurants and other social gatherings that involved no lectures, whatsoever.

Authorities said that sign-in sheets for the sham forums were often forged with the names of absent health care practitioners.

According to the New York Times, charges were additionally filed against John Kapoor, the billionaire founder and former chief executive of Insys, and other Insys officials for participating in the scandal dating back to 2014.

The Arizona-based company was already mired in controversy over its aggressive form of marketing the fentanyl spray since its approval in 2012.

The United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, told the Times:

These prominent doctors swore a solemn oath to place their patients' care above all else. Instead, they engaged in a malignant scheme to prescribe fentanyl, a dangerous and potentially fatal narcotic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, in exchange for bribes in the form of speaker fees.

Berman's office released the names of two other former Insys employees – Jonathan Roper and Fernando Serrano – who pleaded guilty to the charges and are cooperating with the investigation.

The indictment noted that Insys executives "tracked and circulated statistics for each speaker." Roper reportedly threatened sales representatives in an email, stating there would be no more speaking engagements if they didn't push subscriptions. As worded in the indictment, Roper wrote: "NO SCRIPTS. NO PROGRAMS."

According to NBC News, the indictment revealed that another sales representative emailed Freedman with explicit instructions on how many new patients were required to reach the company's targeted goal.

I'd rather you put 20 (or more, of course LOL) new patients (commercially insured of course, as always) on it in April even if we wind up getting only 10-14 approved, rather than only have you go with the safe 6-7 that you think will all get approved.

The rage is real on Twitter.

People referred to Donald Trump's proposed death penalty for drug dealers.

In reality, however, the punishment probably won't be severe.

Some believe it's about doctors' ethics.

H/T - Twitter, NBCnews, NYtimes