U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs opioid maker Insys founder's conviction appeal

FILE PHOTO: The billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc. John Kapoor, exits the federal court house after a bail hearing in Phoenix
·2 min read

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected bids by Insys Therapeutics Inc founder John Kapoor and another former executive of the drugmaker to overturn their convictions for conspiring to bribe doctors to prescribe addictive opioids and defraud insurers into paying for them.

The justices turned away appeals by Kapoor, the former Insys executive chairman, and Sunrise Lee, a former regional sales director, of their 2019 convictions by a jury in federal court in Boston on the charge of racketeering conspiracy.

Kapoor, 78, is serving a prison sentence of 5-1/2 years and is the highest-level corporate executive convicted at trial of crimes related to the opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in the past two decades.

"Real people suffered at the hands of these defendants, who put greed and lining their own pockets ahead of patient safety," U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, Boston's top federal prosecutor, said in a statement. "They remain convicted felons and justice has been served."

Kapoor's lawyers declined to comment. Peter Horstmann, an attorney for Lee, said he was "very disappointed. She has already completed a one-year prison sentence.

The jury found them guilty of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to bribe doctors nationwide by retaining them to act as speakers at sham events ostensibly meant to educate clinicians about the company's fentanyl spray, Subsys.

Kapoor's lawyers in a petition filed in January with the Supreme Court argued that a non-physician like him cannot be convicted of agreeing with a doctor to illegally distribute drugs if the doctor believed he or she was acting in good faith.

The Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2021 upheld his conviction, as well as the convictions of four other former company officials tried alongside him, including Lee.

The racketeering conspiracy convictions were based on the jury's conclusion that Kapoor and others conspired to commit crimes, including illegally distributing a controlled substance.

The Supreme Court in March heard arguments in two cases involving doctors convicted of unlawfully dispensing opioids about whether jurors should be required to consider if they had good faith reasons to believe their prescriptions were medically valid.

Prosecutors said one of those two doctors, Xiulu Ruan of Alabama, accepted kickbacks from Insys and ran a "pill mill."

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Will Dunham and Aurora Ellis)