On Friday of last week, a doctor from Rhode Island was sentenced to 4 years in prison for taking kickbacks from a drug company in exchange for prescribing opioids to people who didn’t need them. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Peter Mougey discuss this.


Mike Papantonio: On Friday last week, a doctor from Rhode Island, he was sentenced to four years in prison, for taking kickbacks from a huge drug company, in exchange for prescribing opioids to people who didn’t need them. Now was Insys. Many people know the story of Insys. The person that’s gotten most of the publicity is a guy named John Kapoor. He’s the executive of that, that came up with this scam of going all over the country saying, “Look, our drug is really only to be used for end of life care, or cancer patients.” It was very specific. It wasn’t approved for anything other than that, because it is such a dangerous drug. The addiction problem is so bad. But what happened here, is so far the doctors are going to jail on the doctors are going to jail on the kickback scheme, because the doctors are now having to turn state’s evidence against the executives.

There’s about seven executives and managers at Insys, who were caught. But here again, this is one isolated incident, when it goes on all the time. I mean, I can tell you, I’ve been doing pharmaceutical cases for 30 plus years. Virtually 70 [inaudible 00:01:14], maybe even 80% of the time, you see these kickback schemes. Here’s how it works. Detailers, they’re salespeople, they get a note that we’re not selling enough of this drug. We’re not selling enough of drug A, because the FDA has only approved it for these narrow uses.

Then they tell the salespeople, “Go to the doctors, and tell them that they can use it for other things. If the doctor says, ‘Well, where’s the literature on that?’ Say doc, we don’t really have literature on it. We have experience with this drug, and the drug can be used for five other things that you’re not prescribing it for.” Then the doctor starts prescribing it. The patients end up dying. They become cripples because of the misuse of the drug. This case is just like it. This Insys is exactly like that, only-

Peter Mougey: The drug is scary. I mean, this is a drug that you spray under your tongue. It’s a little mister. It’s several hundred times more powerful than morphine. It’s crazy addictive. They’re paying doctors, I mean, not just chump change, 180 grand, $200,000 to recommend the drug, to push the drug. One of the patient’s complains about it. It puts him in a zombie … They went back in to the doctor. The doctor tells them to stop being a baby. Creates junkies-

Mike Papantonio: Stop being a baby-

Peter Mougey: Yeah. I mean, it’s absolutely crazy. We’ve created a generation of people addicted, all because these doctors are getting kickbacks, and creating this culture of, “Hey, will you come speak at our conference? You get 50 grand.” [crosstalk 00:02:48]-

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, tell them how that works. Tell them how that works.

Peter Mougey: It is nothing more than a payment to come speak at a conference to other doctors-

Mike Papantonio: They go to Hawaii. They go to Europe. They pay them [crosstalk 00:03:00]-

Peter Mougey: 25 grand. I mean, there’s some big ones-

Mike Papantonio: These are honorariums that they give these doctors-

Peter Mougey: These are huge. This is not just a good dinner out. These are-

Mike Papantonio: The doctor leaves, comes back, and does what?

Peter Mougey: Goes and educates everyone at this conference about how great the drug is. But then the quid pro quo is, they come back to their office, and they’re expected, those detailers you mentioned, they’re expected to increase their prescription rates, and the prescription percentages higher, higher, higher. The more prescriptions you write, the more you get asked to go to these conferences, and the $25,000. It’s all quid pro quo. You think as a patient you’re going in and getting advice. You’re not getting advice. It’s pay to play.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.