Physician Paul Madison is suspected of taking more than $70,000 in bribes from a drug company to churn out prescriptions for its highly addictive fentanyl spray. But on Tuesday, prosecutors wanted jurors to focus more on what, exactly, the pain management specialist was doing at “Chicago’s sexiest nightclub” with an exotic dancer turned pharmaceutical executive named Sunrise wriggling on his lap.
Prosecutors highlighted the boozy outing Tuesday during the ongoing trial of Insys Pharmaceutical executives, who are accused of using kickbacks and dodgy tactics to get doctors to increase prescriptions of Subsys, their fentanyl spray that can be 100 times more potent than morphine.
The spray had been approved by the FDA for treating the worst pain of terminal cancer patients with few other options. But Insys, prosecutors say, increased its bottom line by getting doctors to write “off-label” prescriptions for other types of patients who didn’t need the drug.
It was all in the name of profit, prosecutors said. According to the New York Times, “a single patient using the drug can produce six figures of revenue.” Meanwhile, more than 900 people have died while using Subsys since it was approved in 2012.
Prescribing a highly addictive opioid in any but the most dire cases should spark concern in any doctor’s mind. To quiet those Hippocratic alarm bells, prosecutors and court documents say, Subsys’s pharmaceutical sales team used a playbook that included a sizable helping of the seven deadly sins.
They hired attractive sales reps in their 20s and 30s and encouraged them to stroke doctors’ hands while “begging” them to write prescriptions, Mother Jones reported. The company offered doctors hefty speaking fees, often for events attended only by buddies and people who worked in their practices. In court documents, prosecutors gave the fees another name: kickbacks. And how frequently a doctor participated in the company’s lucrative speaker program was based on how frequently doctors wrote Subsys prescriptions, prosecutors said.