A Rhode Island doctor who took kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics Inc. officials for prescribing the company’s highly addictive liquid version of the opioid painkiller Fentanyl was sentenced to more than four years in prison.
Jerrold Rosenberg, who lost his medical license and was ousted from his post as a Brown University professor, pleaded guilty to taking more than $188,000 in kickbacks disguised as speaker fees and creating false patient records to dupe insurers into covering Insys’s Subsys pain medication.
“You in effect sold your medical license to a pharmaceutical company,” U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. said Friday in federal court. “That’s intolerable.” The judge sentenced him to 51 months and ordered restitution of $754,000.
Rosenberg is the fourth doctor jailed over Insys bribes following a federal probe that resulted in the indictment of billionaire founder and Chief Executive Officer John Kapoor and six other executives. The group was charged with orchestrating an elaborate scheme to bribe doctors and defraud health-care providers.
Federal prosecutors told the court Rosenberg ignored and bullied patients who resisted staying on the powerful pain-killing spray. At least one of Rosenberg’s patients suffered an overdose and was “near death” as a result of his wrongdoing, the government said in court filings.
Rosenberg’s son was an Insys sales representative for a year and made “substantial commissions” from his father’s willingness to prescribe the drug, according to prosecutors. The son wasn’t charged in the case.
“The doctor’s conduct showed that he set his financial gain above his patients’ interests,” prosecutors said. “It represented a grave betrayal of the duty every physician owes to his or her patients.’’
In a seven-page statement to the court, Rosenberg, 63, recounted his medical career and apologized for his crimes. “I have let a lot of people down including myself,” the doctor said. “I committed errors in judgment and allowed my integrity to be compromised.”
In February, Michigan pain-clinic doctor Gavin Awerbuch was sentenced to more than two years in prison after admitting he took sham speaker fees from Insys for prescribing Subsys for no legitimate medical purpose.
Alabama pain clinic doctor John Couch was sentenced last year to 20 years for racketeering after a jury found he took kickbacks for prescribing Subsys. Couch’s partner, Xiulu Ruan, also was sentenced to 21 years in prison for his role in the scheme.
The government contends that when Kapoor saw the bribes were generating more Subsys sales, he pumped more money into speakers’ fees. Prosecutors claim that Kapoor “tightly controlled’’ the scheme.
Kapoor, who is facing racketeering and conspiracy charges, is slated to go to trial in 2019. He and the other former Insys executives have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The cases are U.S. v. Rosenberg, 17-00009, U.S. District Court, Rhode Island, and U.S. v. Babich, 16-cr-10343, U.S. District Court, Massachusetts.