Holly Brown, a former sales representative at Insys Therapeutics, said in federal court on Tuesday that her then-boss, Sunrise Lee, had been rewarding the Illinois doctor, identified as Paul Madison, who received the alleged dance for prescribing the powerful product to patients and paying him to speak at events, Reuters reported.
But according to Brown, the events weren’t educational, rather they were held at a Chicago restaurant owned by John Kapoor, founder and ex-chairman of Insys, and were attended by friends of Madison, not clinicians.
“The idea was these weren’t really meant to be educational programs but were meant to be rewards to physicians,” Brown testified, according to Reuters. After one of these dinners in 2012, Brown testified that she saw Lee on Madison’s lap, “kind of bouncing around.”
“He had his hands sort of inappropriately all over her chest,” Brown alleged.
“It was disappointing,” she said, according to the Boston Herald. “Certainly something I as an employee was not willing to engage in.”
Brown’s testimony came as part of a federal investigation into whether the conduct of painkiller manufacturers and executives contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic. Lee, Kapoor, Michael Gurry, Richard Simon and Joseph Rowan face charges of racketeering and fraud in relation to conspiring to bribe doctors to push their powerful painkiller.
The product, Subsys, had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating cancer pain, according to Reuters. But prosecutors allege the executives bribed doctors to prescribe the powerful and potentially deadly painkiller to patients without cancer. Insys has reported 900 deaths tied to the drug since it was approved in 2012, according to Bloomberg.
Over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in 2017, with synthetic opioids acting as the main culprit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 1999 to 2017, nearly 218,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids, with the number of deaths involving those prescribed medications being five times higher in 2017 than they were in 1999.
Defense lawyers maintain that doctors often prescribe medications for off-label uses. Madison, a pain-management specialist not listed as a witness in this trial, had his license suspended after he was found guilty of unrelated fraud charges last year.
Reuters contributed to this report.