Oct. 27, 2023 – The article detailed the various techniques that the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics used to push its highly addictive fentanyl-based painkiller Subsys into the marketplace, including employing an attractive, charismatic staff of motivated sales reps, and recruiting doctors to recommend the drug to other prescribers via its “speaker program.” Ostensibly a marketing tool, the speaker program was actually a front for bribery.

Key figures in this story—which Hughes later expanded into the nonfiction book The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup—included Insys founder John Kapoor, sales manager Alec Burlakoff, and speakers Xiulu Ruan and John Patrick Couch. All are now in prison; Ruan and Couch were charged with running a “pill mill,” while Kapoor and Burlakoff found guilty of racketeering. Hughes also quotes Tracy Krane, a former employee at Insys, as a source multiple times; she no longer works in the pharma industry.