Insys Trial Continues With Notorious Rap Video Played for Jurors
A rap video extolling the virtues of prescribing a powerful fentanyl-based pain killer to patients beyond what the drug was initially intended is coming back to haunt Insys founder John Kapoor.
Two weeks into the trial for Kapoor and other former company executives, jurors were shown the video, which was initially made during a 2015 sales conference. As BioSpace reported when news of the video became public in 2017, former sales associates danced with a giant bottle of the addictive fentanyl-based Subsys in a rap music video during a 2015 sales conference. During the sales conference, Insys employees appeared in the video alongside a life-sized 1600 mcg bottle of Subsys, which was the largest dose of the drug available for sale in the United States. The company used a song by rapper A$AP Rocky and changed the lyrics to refer to titration, which the indictment against Kapoor described as the process of “increasing the strength of the prescription until the patient reached the adequate dosage strength.” When the video ended, Alec Burlakoff, the former vice president of sales and one of the defendants in the trial, took off the Subsys costume revealing his identity.
When the video was played for the jury this week, Bloomberg reported that some of the jurors seemed amused by the video and at least one female juror appeared to bob her head to the beat of the music in the video.
Kapoor and the other executives from Insys, along with members of its sales team, have been charged with orchestrating kickback schemes to encourage doctors to boost prescriptions of Subsys, Along with Kapoor, the government charged former CEO and company president Michael Babich, Alec Burlakoff, the former vice president of Sales; Richard Simon, the former national director of sales; former regional sales directors Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan; and former vice president of managed markets, Michael Gurry.
Over the course of the trial, jurors have heard about some of the aggressive sales tactics used by Insys to promote sales of Subsys, including having a sales manager perform a lap dance at a strip club for a doctor the company was trying to woo.
Babich, who has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud, testified that Kapoor and the company were pushing the higher doses of Subsys over lower doses, Bloomberg said. The reason was that, according to Babich, Kapoor believed patients who were given lower doses of the pain killer might dump the prescription in favor of something more potent if their pain was significant enough. In order to push the higher dose, Insys offered its sales executives cash bonuses. According to Babich’s testimony, a prescription for the 1,600-microgram dose would earn a bonus of $1,830, Bloomberg reported.
Babich, who led Insys from 2011 to 2015, testified that Insys employees lied to insurance companies about the condition of payments in order to gain approval for Subsys prescriptions, The Boston Globe reported. Babich said during his testimony that he was following the direction of Kapoor in order to push for increased Subsys sales.
Kapoor’s attorneys have argued that the testimony from Babich and others is false. Kapoor’s attorney told jurors that the former company founder was dedicated to helping people with cancer overcome their pain after witnessing his wife’s own struggles with breast cancer. According to a Reuters report, Kapoor’s lawyer, Beth Wilkinson said Kapoor knew doctors were being paid, but believed they were “being paid to talk up the product’s benefits.” While Kapoor has been accused of being a major reason for the opioid crisis facing the United States, Wilkinson said during her opening arguments that Subsys only makes up 0.03 percent of all U.S. opioid prescriptions, Reuters reported.