Doctor among painkiller's top dispensers is convicted

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York doctor described as one of the nation's top dispensers of a highly addictive painkiller 50 to 100 times as potent as morphine was convicted Thursday of accepting over $300,000 in bribes disguised as speaker fees to write prescriptions.

Gordon Freedman, 59, of Mount Kisco, was convicted by a jury in Manhattan federal court of conspiracy to violate anti-kickback laws, violating anti-kickback laws and honest services wire fraud.

Prosecutors said Freedman in 2014 wrote the fourth-highest number of prescriptions for Subsys, a potent painkiller, while he was paid more than any other doctor in bribes.

“Dr. Gordon Freedman sold out his patients by prescribing a powerful and dangerous fentanyl opioid in exchange for bribes from the pharmaceutical company that manufactured that drug,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release.

Berman said the conviction occurred in a case that resulted in guilty pleas by four other prominent Manhattan doctors.

Prosecutors say the fentanyl spray made by Insys Therapeutics Inc., headquartered in Chandler, Arizona, was 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Sentencing was scheduled for March 19 for Freedman, who owned a private pain management office in Manhattan. Prosecutors said he received $308,600 in speaker program fees.

Prosecutors said the speaker fee programs were supposed to inform other health care practitioners about Subsys but instead were mainly social affairs where no educational presentations occurred.

Messages for comment were left with Gordon's lawyers and Insys.

Prosecutors say the doctors, four men and a woman, collected tens of thousands of dollars working for the "Speakers Bureau" of Insys over a four-year stretch beginning in August 2012.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in June after agreeing to pay $225 million in a deal reached with the federal government to settle criminal and civil investigations. The deal also called for it to divest of Subsys.

Insys founder John Kapoor and four senior executives were previously convicted in Boston for their roles in the scheme. They have appealed their convictions.

After that trial, Insys said in an emailed statement that the "the actions of a select few former employees" are not indicative of the company's work today.

Authorities say the prosecution exposed the bribes and marketing tactics including using a stripper-turned-sales-rep to give a physician a lap dance.

Opioid overdoses claimed nearly 400,000 lives in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.