The Smoking Gun –

June 21, 2020 – 

DRUG COMPANY EXECUTIVES AND OPIOID SALESMEN 

June 2020 report 

This January in a federal courthouse, there was a first in the American opioid crisis: Top drug company executives were sentenced to prison for crimes related to the public health emergency.

A jury found five executives of Insys Therapeutics guilty of racketeering and fraud, determining that they recklessly and illegally conspired to boost profits from the opioid painkiller Subsys. The judge sentenced former Insys CEO John Kapoor to a prison term of five and a half years.

In a two-part report for 60 Minutes, Bill Whitaker examined the years-long investigation that led to the convictions. Whitaker’s report exposed the playbook of sales practices that helped lead to an explosion of opioid prescriptions in the last two decades. 

“I was taught to forget the patient, to not think about the patient, take the human aspect out of it,” former Insys senior vice president of sales Alec Burlakoff told Whitaker. “It’s like selling widgets.”

Before arriving at Insys, Burlakoff was a star sales representative at Cephalon, a drug company that flouted FDA regulations to sell the fast-acting synthetic opioid Actiq. Cephalon pleaded guilty in 2008 to a misdemeanor for illegal promotion, paying $425 million in fines and settlements—less than a quarter of the company’s yearly revenue. Cephalon was eventually sold, and Burlakoff found a new job at Insys, where he brought along his successful opioid sales practices. 

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