Kenneth Sun, M.D., 58, of Easton, Pennsylvania, plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive health care kickbacks. In his guilty plea, Sun admitted that between 2012 to 2016 he conspired with Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company based in Arizona, to get $140,000 in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for prescribing more than 28 million micrograms of Subsys. Additionally, the scheme defrauded Medicare to pay more than $847,000 for Subsys prescriptions that were medically unnecessary.
Subsys is a powerful Fentanyl narcotic that is designed to rapidly enter a patient’s blood stream after being sprayed under the tongue. Fentanyl has been at the center of opioid overdoses in recent years as the number of overdose deaths as a result of synthetic opioids has been on the rise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control “In 2017, more than 28,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids (other than methadone) occurred in the United States, which is more deaths than from any other type of opioid.” Fentanyl is especially infamous for its contribution to a high number of deaths as a result of it being 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
As expressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Fentanyl should be prescribed soley for “management of breakthrough pain in cancer patients who are already receiving and who are tolerant to around the clock therapy for their underlying persistent cancer pain.”
As part of his guilty plea, Sun admitted to prescribing Fentanyl to “patients for whom Subsys was medically unnecessary, not eligible for insurance reimbursement and unsafe.” Sun went on to admit that many of the kickbacks he received from Insys Theraputics were disguised as “honoraria” for educational presentations where Sun supposedly presented information to licensed practitioners about Subsys.
In reality, these presentations were a complete scam and “lacked the appropriate audience of licensed practitioners seeking educational information regarding Subsys; there was no presentation about Subsys whatsoever; the same individuals attended over and over again; and Sun did not attend some of the presentations at all.” according to a release by the Department of Justice.
Insys Therapeutics, for it’s part, has filled for chapter 11 bankruptcy after reaching a $225 million settlement with the Department of Justice in June of 2019, which outlined the company’s expansive bribery campaign with multiple doctors to prescribe Subsys needlessly. Insys’s founder, John Kapoor, and four former executives, Michael Gurry, Richard Simon, Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan, are facing lengthy prison sentences as a result.
However, a federal judge has recently overturned part of the convictions of Insys executives that deal with their violation of the Controlled Substances Act. While the charges of wire and mail fraud still stand, the U.S. District Court Judge contends that the government failed to prove that Insys executives violated the Controlled Substances Act because, despite the fact the Insys and the doctors they were working with were effectively pushing powerful narcotics onto the market, the medications they were pushing still have legitimate medical use in the market. Kapoor and his colleagues are scheduled for sentencing in the second week of January 2020.
Sun’s sentencing has been scheduled for Feb. 26, 2020.