Stripper-turned-manager gave lap-dance to doctor to prescribe addictive painkiller
John Kapoor, CEO of US-based Insys Therapeutics, as we reported, has been accused of using illegal marketing tactics in order to make doctors prescribe a highly addictive opioid painkiller. His company's manager, Sunrise Lee, a former stripper, is also facing trial and on Tuesday, court proceedings revealed that one physician, Paul Madison, received a special lap dance by Lee once, as part of bribery.
Madison ran a pain clinic in Illinois and is "extremely moody, lazy, and inattentive," said an Insys sales representative in court. "Dr. Madison runs a very shady pill mill that only accepts cash. He basically shows up just to write his name on the prescription pad, if he shows up at all," the rep wrote, indicating why Madison was Insys' top targets.
In fact, Madison accounted for 58% of the sales of the said drug, Subsys, in Illinois over a three-year period. Further, Madison is suspected to have taken over $70,000 or Rs. 50 lakh as bribes from Insys. Apart from being involved in Insys case, Madison was also convicted last November for defrauding insurers into paying for chiropractic procedures, which were never performed.
Meanwhile, Lee was a former dancer at a Florida strip club and was hired as a sales executive at Insys despite having no academic degree, prosecutors said. Her management experience revealed that she ran an escort service and over time, rose to become the regional sales director in Insys Therapeutics. Prosecutors further said that Lee took a special interest in Madison's practice.
Holly Brown, who recounted the lap dance story to federal jurors, testified that Lee would often wear low-cut tops around Madison. During their initial lunch, Lee gave Madison her business card and "told him to call if he wanted to discuss the Fentanyl Spray 'in private'." Once after dinner, Lee and Madison went to a club where Brown was present as well.
Brown saw Lee "sitting on his (Madison's) lap, kind of bouncing around," adding, "he had his hands all over her chest." The attorneys of the defendants, including Lee's, tried to discredit Brown's testimony saying her memory could be foggy because she had been drinking that night. To this, Brown replied that everyone at the strip club (Madison, Lee, and Brown) had been drinking.
Meanwhile, to get more sales, Insys hired attractive sales reps in their 20s and 30s. The reps were encouraged to stroke the doctor's hands while persuading them to write prescriptions. The company paid hefty fees, often for events attended by friends and people who worked in their practices. Doctors who frequently prescribed Subsys were often allowed to participate for Insys' lucrative speaking program.
Reportedly, in 2016, Insys made 18,000 payments worth over $2 million (Rs. 14.21 crore) to headache doctors and back pain specialists. According to the New York Times, "A single patient using the drug (Subsys) can produce six figures of revenue." Also, sales of the pricey drug made Insys a favorite at Wall Street before its top executives were charged with serious federal crimes.
Now, let's talk of the drug in question. Subsys is a fentanyl spray which can be 100 times more potent than morphine. It was approved by the FDA in 2012 for treating the worst pain of terminal-cancer patients. But Insys asked doctors to write "off-label" prescriptions for other patients who didn't need the drug. Over 900 people have died after using Subsys since 2012.