John Kapoor, the billionaire founder of the drug manufacturer Insys, was sentenced to five and a half years (66 months) in prison on bribery and racketeering charges Thursday. The sentence was handed down for his part in a scheme to bribe doctors to over-prescribe addictive and potentially lethal doses of pain killers which contained Fentanyl. Other executives from Insys have already been sentenced to jail but Kapoor’s sentence marks the toughest of any drug company executive to date. Reuters notes that the government sought a sentence of 15 years and damages of over 100 million dollars in the case. All this comes in the midst of a nationwide opioid crisis which stands to be a significant issue in the 2020 election. According to the CDC in 2017 over 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in America, 68% of which were due to opioids or other prescription drugs.
Vox covered the conviction of Kapoor last May, where they show a rap video used to market its addictive drugs and describe how, in their view, drug makers bear much of the blame for the crisis. In a piece from earlier this month Olga Khazan of The Atlantic investigated the current research into the causes of the opioid crisis. The most commonly cited reason for the surge in opioid addiction is economic – job loss leads to despair and an inevitable turning to drugs. Weary of a simplistic answer Khazan spoke with other researchers who question this answer and wonder if the problem is much more complicated and has as much to do with abuses by drug companies and their marketing. Her conclusion is that epidemic has complex causes and suggests that more government regulation of doctor’s prescriptions may be the answer.
“Humphreys (an opioid researcher) pointed out that even if the decline of manufacturing jobs did cause the opioid epidemic, it would be cold comfort to policy makers. They can’t snap their fingers and reopen scores of factories across the country. “Who doesn’t want to revive those areas?” he said. “If we knew how to bring manufacturing back, we would do it.” To stop the opioid epidemic, he argued, we should focus on changes we can actually make.”
For Republicans, this will likely be seen as an extension of President Trump’s efforts since 2018 to curb the crisis. Brietbart wrote a piece on today’s sentencing, here, while another take came from the writers at zerohedge who see the event in the context of the large scale schemes of fraud by large banks in 2008 that went unpunished. They note that in the wake of the financial crisis not a single executive was sent to jail despite indisputable evidence of corruption and fraud at the highest levels of every major American Bank. Yet today a wealthy executive received a significant jail sentence for corruption. Zerohedge writes,
“When Americans look back at the opioid crisis, they’ll remember that at least one executive [Kapoor] of a major opioid manufacturer and distributor was sentenced to a fairly weighty sentence – five-and-a-half years (66 months) in federal prison – for an illegal kickback scheme that effectively involved bribing doctors to prescribe potentially lethal doses of fentanyl.”
By Daniel L.